Fukushima monkeys show possible 'effects of radiation'

July 24, 2014

Monkeys near the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant have lower blood cell counts than cousins living further away, possibly because of radiation exposure, a study said Thursday.

A Japanese research team wrote in the journal Nature Scientific Reports that although they could not prove the link, the blood levels "might likely be the result of exposure to some form of radioactive material".

Fewer could make the monkeys more prone to disease, they said, and "may suggest that the immune system has been compromised to some extent".

The team had compared white and red blood cell levels in macaques living in a forest area of Fukushima City, 70 kilometres (43 miles) from the nuclear plant, with that of 31 monkeys living 400 km away in the Shimokita Peninsula.

"Compared with Shimokita monkeys, Fukushima monkeys had significantly low white and counts," said the researchers.

The study sought to examine the health effects of long-term radioactive exposure on wild Japanese macaques following the massive earthquake and nuclear meltdown at Fukushima in March 2011.

Such data from non-human primates, our closest relatives, could contribute to knowledge about the health effects of on humans, the team said.

But some commentators criticised the research method.

Jim Smith, environmental science professor at the University of Portsmouth in Britain, said the dosage inferred in the study was unlikely to have had a significant effect on the monkeys' .

"I think it much more likely that the apparently low blood in the Fukushima monkeys are caused by something other than radiation."

Geraldine Thomas, a professor of molecular pathology at Imperial College London, added the radiation doses would have been less than a person would receive on a flight from London to Tokyo.

The blood cell count may be caused by other factors such as a new diet or other environmental changes brought on by the tsunami, she said.

Explore further: Tokyo 'not doing enough' for Fukushima: Greenpeace

Related Stories

Tokyo 'not doing enough' for Fukushima: Greenpeace

December 7, 2011

Fukushima's residents are being left to their fate and not enough is being done to protect them against radiation nine months after Japan's tsunami, environment group Greenpeace said Wednesday.

TEPCO: Record high radiation level found in fish

January 18, 2013

A fish contaminated with radiation levels more than 2,500 times the legal limit has been caught near Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, its operator said Friday.

High cesium level found in fish by Fukushima plant

March 17, 2013

The Japanese utility that owns the tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant says it has detected a record 740,000 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium in a fish caught close to the plant.

Recommended for you

Asteroid impact, volcanism were one-two punch for dinosaurs

October 1, 2015

Berkeley geologists have uncovered compelling evidence that an asteroid impact on Earth 66 million years ago accelerated the eruptions of volcanoes in India for hundreds of thousands of years, and that together these planet-wide ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.