Detrimental Impacts of Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Continue
As 2012 draws to a close, evaluating the ongoing effects of the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster on the people of Japan is a difficult and depressing task. After having fled their homes due to the tsunami and resulting triple nuclear meltdown, 21 months later an estimated 160,000 citizens still have not returned home.
Reports of illness in humans and livestock continue to underscore the far reaching and difficult to predict impacts that a nuclear accident can cause. In July, 36 percent of Japanese children screened were found to have abnormal thyroid growths. This fall, an illness dubbed the “Fukushima syndrome” was reported to be killing cattle near the Fukushima prefecture. Mutations are already observed in butterflies and other insects, whose shorter life cycles allow genetic disruptions to display more quickly than in mammals or humans.
The World Health Organization downplayed radiation and exposure risks in a report they released last summer, which is being discredited as biased by members of Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. Dr. Alex Rosen, from Germany said, “It is unclear why a report written mainly by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and collaborating nuclear institutions would need to be published in the name of the WHO, if not to provide an unsuspicious cover” for the true radiation levels Fukushima residents were exposed to. The United Nations issued a recent report concluding that delaying the release of factual radiation data and exposure risks put residents and workers in greater danger than was necessary. This echoes the findings of an independent panel earlier this year, that called the Fukushima nuclear disaster a “man-made” catastrophe.
The Asahi Shimbun reports the technical details of the reactors here, and the outlook is still grim. In the article, Nuclear Regulatory Authority Shunichi Tanaka Chairman said, “The situation surrounding the decommissioning process is volatile, so there is a need for constant reviews in securing safety.” They are running out of room to store radioactive water and, despite reducing the amount of radioactivity being released from the reactors, there are still radioactive plumes being released.
Former chief research scientist at the now-defunct Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute, Fumiya Tanabe, said, "Despite the (officially declared) cold shutdowns of the reactors, the cooling functions have been maintained there with no knowledge of where the melted fuel lies and in what state. There is a risk of unforeseen circumstances arising if another major earthquake hits.”
The national Japanese elections earlier this month yielded unexpected results, with the Liberal Democratic Party winning despite it’s pro-nuclear platform in a largely anti-nuclear nation. One problem may lie in the belief that eliminating nuclear power could further negatively impact Japan’s recovering economy. This is complicated by the reliance nuclear communities have upon the money they receive in taxes, among other incentives, for hosting a reactor, which often translates into a tax base that is double that of non-nuclear communities. Despite this, many Japanese people are concerned that a focus on the economy will undermine safety concerns related to new geologic evidence of fault lines under other reactors.
October was a month of long overdue admissions, as Tokyo Power Electric Company (Tepco) finally admitted fault in the accident, citing a lack of safety culture and long term “bad habits” as exacerbating the accident. Yoshihoko Noda also offered thanks to the “Fukushima 50,” saying “Thanks to your dedication, we have managed to preserve Japan.” While this expression of gratitude is long overdue, it falls short of the debt owed to these brave people who risked their lives to do their job. The impacts their sacrifices could have on their long-term health will only be known over time.
Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom. Two high school girls that were affected by the disaster are launching a peace discussion forum devoted to expanding the dialogue about nuclear power and weapons. One of the young women said, “My parents’ and grandparents’ generations may be to blame for allowing the nuclear power plants, but both adults and children are responsible for thinking together about the problem.”
Our wish for the upcoming year is that all of us—all energy users—will step up to this challenge, determine where they fit into this conversation, and take meaningful actions in their daily lives to reduce their energy usage and push for clean, safe energy solutions.
- A history of collusion between World Health Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency, including video;
- U.S. organizations’ response to Japanese Parliament’s Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission report, highlighting similar collusion problems here;
- Video coverage of an active protest in Tokyo, Japan this past July;
- Fairewinds Energy Education’s video and analysis of recent Tepco report regarding the Fukushima nuclear accident, along with highlighting important safety concerns with the U.S. nuclear reactor fleet; and
- Fukushima Diary has regular updates and news, as it breaks in Japan.
Visit EcoWatch’s NUCLEAR page for more related news on this topic.
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Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
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