The JECS - Japan Environment and Children Study - is a study to be carried out by the Ministry of the Environment headed by Goshi "Let's share the pain of Fukushima" Hosono to study the effect of environmental pollutants on the health of children.
According to the Study's website:
The Japan Environment and Children's Study (JECS), a birth cohort study involving 100,000 parent-child pairs, was launched in 2011 in order to evaluate the impact of various environmental factors on children's health and development. The concept plan of JECS was published in March 2010 after three years of development within expert groups and public discussions about the research hypotheses and aims. Pilot studies started in 2008 in four universities, and samples from two preceding cohorts (Hokkaido and Tohoku) are also used for establishing exposure measurement protocols. Recruitment of participating pregnant women started in January 2011, and will continue until 2013. Health outcomes and exposure measurements will continue until the participating children become 13 years old.
By "environmental pollutants" the Ministry was thinking mostly about chemicals. But Hosono announced on December 20 that in Fukushima Prefecture an extra study will be done to gather data on the effect of radiation on 25,000 children born of mothers who were exposed to radiation from the Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident during pregnancies for the next 13 years.
All the Ministry will do is to gather data and observe. Japan has learned well from the US-Japan joint radiation research after Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing - ABCC, which became RERF in 1975 and continues to this day.
NHK Japanese has an amusing headline. If you just read the headline, you don't know what "follow-up study" it is talking about.
NHK News Japanese (12/21/2011):
Follow-up study on children in Fukushima
To shed light on the effect of radioactive materials on the health of children, the Ministry of the Environment has decided to carry out a large-scale follow-up study on about 25,000 children born of mothers in Fukushima Prefecture until the children turn 13.
The Ministry of the Environment has been conducting the survey to study the negative effect of environmental chemicals on the health of children since January this year on 100,000 children throughout Japan [to be signed up gradually over the next 3 years, according to Sankei Shinbun]. The survey will track the concentration of chemicals in the blood, developmental status, etc of children from embryos [or fetuses; not clear] till they are 13 years old. The survey items do not include radioactive materials, but as the interest in the effect of radioactive materials on the health of children is heightened because of the nuclear accident the Ministry has decided to study the effect of radioactive materials on children in Fukushima Prefecture.
About 25,000 children born of mothers residing inside Fukushima Prefecture will be the subjects of the study, which will track the radiation exposure level of the mothers, congenital abnormalities in the children, relationship between [radioactive materials, or radiation exposure] and various illnesses including allergies and asthma, until the children turn 13 years old. The survey will also make use of the radiation exposure survey done by the Fukushima prefectural government for all the residents in Fukushima. The Ministry of the Environment will utilize the result of the survey for the health risk management and for countermeasures to reduce radiation exposure, if the relationship between radioactive materials and the children's health is confirmed.
100,000 children in Japan are to be registered, tested and tracked, of whom 25,000 will be from Fukushima, with extra survey on radioactive materials.
According to Asahi Shinbun, the Ministry had initially planned to select only 7,000 children and their mothers in 14 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture but it changed its mind and expanded to 25,000 children and their mothers throughout Fukushima. I wonder why.
But I don't know why the Ministry will study the children in Fukushima only, when there are places outside Fukushima with even higher radiation levels and contamination than some of the cities inside Fukushima. I guess they don't want to spend much money.