According to the most recent report, deaths in Japan attributable to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster have continued to increase. Last year, the number of deaths increased by 18 percent over the year before.
A March 2011 earthquake and tsunami triggered multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Japan’s northeast coast, in what has become the worst nuclear disaster in history. A massive radioactive plume was released by the meltdowns, and the crippled plant has continued to leak radiation into the surrounding environment, including into the Pacific Ocean.
A total of about 160,000 people were evacuated as a result of the Fukushima disaster.
More fatalities on the horizon?
According to data collected by the Fukushima Prefecture, 2014 saw 1,232 nuclear-related deaths. The two towns with the greatest number of deaths were both near the Fukushima plant: Namie, with 359 dead; and Tomioka, with 291 dead.
The term “nuclear-related” means a death that does not result directly from radiation exposure but is caused by a disease later caused by that exposure. Indeed, it is radiation-related diseases – including cancer, tumors and genetic damage – that often cause the bulk of health problems and fatalities in cases of radiation exposure.
One of the diseases particularly expected to show an uptick after the Fukushima disaster is thyroid cancer, because radioactive iodine from nuclear disasters tends to concentrate in the thyroid gland. An estimated 6,000 children contracted thyroid cancer following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.