The column by Sokyu Genyu, a Zen Buddhist monk (Rinzai-shu) and a published author who lives in Miharu-machi in Fukushima Prefecture, appears on the Sunday paper of Fukushima Minpo.
In the most recent column, Genyu says that children are able to withstand radioactive cesium much better than adults, and the traditional thinking that children are more affected by radiation has proven false by numerous examples in Fukushima Prefecture.
Quick translation (not literal; link added):
Prayer on the Children's Day
by Sokyu Genyu
I feel that we cannot talk frankly about radiation in Fukushima right now. Everyone has formed his/her opinion already based on a certain level of knowledge and won't listen to the new information that may be contradictory. It is the same with the media such as newspapers and TV stations. They have been disseminating various information, and it may be that they cannot write about it at this late stage. They are extremely timid about upsetting the widely-held knowledge.
What is this widely-held knowledge? It is the thinking that children are more affected by radiation exposure than adults. It derives from the experiment whereby the rat cells were irradiated with the massive dose of gamma-ray. The result was that the more immature (undifferentiated) the cells were the more damage were sustained (Bergonié-Tribondeau law). So they reasoned, "it should be the same" with adults and children or low radiation exposure.
It was too coarse an analogy to be called scientific. But recently there are various empirical data that refute this analogy.
For example, Dr. Ryohei Takahashi, OB/GYN doctor in Minami Soma wrote in late November last year, after having observed children who were born after the March 11 disaster: "I know it is considered a taboo, but I have found out that children have more resistance to cesium than adults. They have the capability several times higher than that of adults to repair damaged chromosomes, excrete [radioactive materials in the body] in urine, and in terms of half life at various organs in the body."
Dr. Tsubokura at Minami Soma General Hospital, who has been conducting the WBC (whole body counter) measurement, says that the biological half life of cesium in adults are 100 to 120 days, whereas it is about a month in 6 year olds and 10 days in one year olds.
To begin with, children seldom get cancer. It should be quite easy to see that children has much higher ability to nullify the free radicals and higher immune functions than adults. However, some people have been saying that children are affected by radiation exposure by "manyfold", based on the mere fact that cell divisions are more active in children and on the Bergonié-Tribondeau law.
It is true that if this widely-held knowledge is overturned, there may be a big confusion.
People who have evacuated from Fukushima have done so "for the sake of their children", and they have endured hardship. The very basis of their decision to evacuate would disappear. Calculations for compensations are based on the premise that children are more affected. [The bottom of the next sentence is cut off, but I think it is something like] It would take a great amount of time to redo the calculations.
But what's important right now is not to be obstinate and possessed with the idea that things may go bad for children. Rather we should be amazed by the strength of children and accept a new way of looking at the situation. In order to revive the community, we must study this issue intensively.
I kept scratching my head as I translated. The laws of nature may indeed be different in Fukushima. I've seen a bizarre presentation material prepared by someone in Koriyama City that claims that if there are 10 cesium-137 atoms, 5 atoms will decay in 30 years; if there are 10 plutonium-239 atoms, 5 plutonium atoms will decay in 24,000 years, therefore it's nothing to worry about in our lifetime. I may write about this presentation later, but it just boggles my mind that people are persuaded by this kind of talk, particularly in a country that has supposedly risen from the ashes after the World War II because of its technological strength. (I guess it was a nice, overrated myth...)