Study says fallout from nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan may be harming local infants

SAN DIEGO - Two years later, the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan may be affecting the health of young children in San Diego.

"We should take this very seriously," said Joseph Mangano, the executive director of the New York-based Radiation and Public Health Project, which researches the impact of nuclear power.

The group obtained results of eight air samples conducted by the EPA in San Diego in the month and a half after the nuclear disaster began.

It found that beta radiation levels in San Diego were more than six times the normal amount. While those are still low levels, the group says its numbers show the radiation may have harmed children.

The research group looked at those most vulnerable – infants – along with a gland susceptible to radiation, the thyroid.

In a study of states in the West Coast and in the Pacific, infants born soon after the nuclear disaster were 28 percent more likely to develop congenital hypothyroidism, which can lead to stunted growth.

In California, that number jumped to 39 percent.

Critics say there is still no direct evidence those radiation levels can harm humans.

"It's not like every newborn developed a terrible disease," said Mangano. "The effects are more subtle than that."  

But Mangano says there should be concern because if the radiation is impacting the young, the true impact may not be known for years, even decades.

Mangano said he plans more studies in the next year looking at the fallout and any links to infants' deaths and birth defects.

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