Dozens of American sailors who took part in an attempt to stem the Fukushima nuclear disaster have developed cancer. Al Jazeera is reporting a slightly lower number:
Fifty-one crew members of the USS Ronald Reagan say they are suffering from a variety of cancers as a direct result of their involvement in Operation Tomodachi, a U.S. rescue mission in Fukushima after the nuclear disaster in March 2011. The affected sailors are suing Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), alleging that the utility mishandled the crisis and did not adequately warn the crew of the risk of participating in the earthquake relief efforts.
Crew members, many of whom are in their 20s, have been diagnosed with conditions including thyroid cancer, testicular cancer and leukemia. The Department of Defense says the Navy took “proactive measures” in order to “mitigate the levels of Fukushima-related contamination on U.S. Navy ships and aircraft” and that crew members were not exposed to dangerous radiation levels.
Charles Bonner, attorney for the sailors, says the radiation the USS Ronald Reagan crew was exposed to extended beyond the tasks of Operation Tomodachi. Deployed ships desalinate their own water, so crew members were unknowingly drinking, cooking with, and bathing in contaminated water due to the ship’s close proximity to the disaster site, according to Bonner. The USS Reagan was ultimately informed of the contamination after a month of living approximately 10 miles offshore from the affected region.
The number of plaintiffs in the case could grow significantly as 150 additional crew members are currently being medically screened to join. The sailors are seeking $40 million each in punitive damages as well as a $1 billion fund for future medical expenses for members of the USS Reagan.
There are more details at ENENews, including trnascript excerpts from an interview with the sailors’ lawyer Charles Bonner at the Nuclear Hotseat Podcast that put the count of affected sailors at at least 75:
Charles Bonner, attorney representing sailors from the USS Ronald Reagan: They’re not only going to the rescue by jumping into the water and rescuing people out of the water, but they were drinking desalinated sea water, bathing in it, until finally the captain of the USS Ronald Reagan alarmed people that they were encountering high levels of radiation. As a result of this exposure, the 51 sailors that we represent right now have come down with a host of medical problems, including cancers and leukemias, all kinds of gynecological problems […] people who are going blind, pilots who had perfect eyesight but now have tumors on the brain. These service men and women are young people 21, 22, 23 years old and no one in their family had ever (inaudible) any of these kinds of illnesses before.
This all started shortly after the fukushima nuclear disaster / relief efforts in japan.