TRAVELLING THROUGH CONTAMINATED LANDS (7)
I’d like to introduce you two very interesting websites.
Last week, in Fukushima City (福島市) I met with the person who’s in charge of this project. His name is Yoshino Hiroyuki (吉野裕行) and he’s part of the NPO Shalom (NPO法人シャロム). He lives in one of the most contaminated area of Fukushima City. He quickly sent his wife and daughter to Kyoto and is now living alone. He helps with many activities, for example organizing outings for children to play in the nature, away from contaminated areas (保養プログラム). I actually met him in Paris last summer while he was taking 5 children on a trip to France.
This website is one part of what his NPO does. With other members, they walk around the city to spot highly contaminated areas. Well, you will tell me that Fukushima City is not as crazy as Date and has decontamination activities going on, meaning they are taking precise measurements of radioactivity. But they only measure it at a 1m from the ground, which is great to know how much an adult is exposed, but doesn’t apply to a smaller child. What they do at Shalom is simple: they put 3 measurement machines on a stroller, at different heights (1m, 50cm and 10cm from the ground) and measure how much difference there is in between them. And it’s pretty impressive. Sometimes, you have spots in which there is almost nothing at 1m but it’s already crossing the 0,23μSv limit.
In many ways, children are more exposed then adults to radioactivity. They are closer to the ground, meaning to hotspots. Also, they are told to avoid walking in the middle of the road so they stick to the sides, where radioactivity tends to accumulate. They want to play on the ground, touching dead leaves and rocks, which might be contaminated. They love to splash around pools of water, where radioactivity stacks up. Everyday is a nightmare for careful parents who want their children to enjoy their childhood but can’t stand the idea of potential exposure.
I think Yoshino’s project is great because it allows parents to know where to let their children play. If you look at the maps, you will see that playgrounds and parks were actually pretty well decontaminated. There are still some hotspots, but if you are informed, it becomes easier to avoid them (tiles, gummy grounds, water accumulating spots, etc.). His maps are showing radioactivity, that’s a fact. But contrary as what the administration says (it’s promoting anxiety), it’s a great tool. Parents know where to go and where not to go. They can leave their children play in an area that was tested, without worrying. It’s a great psychological relief. The administration should support the initiative and pay more people to do the same. Hotspots will be identified and even if decontamination is not possible right away, people will be able to avoid them and feel safer.
There is another initiative that resembles this one. It’s the Everyone’s Date Site (みんなのデーターサイト). This NPO has a great radioactivity detector to test food. They buy random products in supermarkets or at small markets and update their database. Have a look at it, it’s amazing. Some people also bring them food to see if it’s ok to eat. They measure food from all over Japan, not only Fukushima Prefecture.
I was pretty surprised to see that levels of radioactivity are very low in many products produced locally. There are a few products that you definitely shouldn’t eat (mushrooms, kakis, yuzu, nuts) but many veggies and fruits are pretty ok. Well, it’s ok if you’re a 30-year-old adult. I would still be careful if I have children, but in general it’s less dramatic than what I expected.
Again I had the same feeling that if you actually measure everything and show trustworthy figures to people, they will feel relieved. “Oh, I can eat this cabbage and this carrot.” It might seem trivial but it’s very important when it comes to the everyday life of so many people.
I have to say that after talking to all these people, I felt much better and less paranoid. I now know where I shouldn’t walk and where to look for when checking food contamination. I definitely believe that more people should know about those projects and be able to access trustworthy information. I’m happy some people are conducting those studies. And I hope they will bring hope to despaired people.