Saturday, September 1, 2012

Environment ministry to check Fukushima residents' DNA for radiation damage

The Ministry of the Environment has revealed a plan to examine the genomes of volunteers in Fukushima Prefecture next fiscal year to look for radiation damage stemming from the ongoing nuclear crisis there.

According to the environment ministry, it will work with Fukushima Medical University to collect DNA samples from volunteers and hunt for abnormalities in their genes. The cost is expected to be in the hundreds of millions of yen.

Radiation damages genes and can bring about cancer and other ailments. The ministry says that there were repeated requests to do a gene study from pregnant mothers and others participating in a national long-term study on the effects of chemical substances and radiation on children's health.

However, professor Yusuke Nakamura of the University of Chicago, a leader in the field of genomic studies, calls the plan "baseless," saying that because people's gene sequences slightly differ anyway and errors in the testing equipment could occur, even if abnormalities in DNA sequences were found they might not be related to ailments or caused by radiation.

Satoru Miyano of the University of Tokyo, who specializes in genetic analysis, warned, "Analysis results that might not in fact have any connection to radiation could be associated with the Fukushima nuclear disaster, hurting the people of Fukushima Prefecture and leading to discrimination and prejudice."

The ministry has said that it plans to sound out experts when it starts setting up the plan's specifics. Source