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Japan city to give radiation counters to children

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Japan’s Fukushima city said Tuesday it would  hand radiation measuring devices to 34,000 children to gauge their exposure  from the crippled nuclear power plant about 60 kilometres (40 miles) away.

The city will hand the “dosimeters” to all children aged between four and  15 for three months from September so that they can wear them around the  clock, an official at the city’s education board told AFP.

The city is located outside the government’s no-entry zone 20 kilometres  (12 miles) around the tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, but many  residents are concerned about radiation, he said.

“There have been fixed-spot radiation measurements but parents and citizens  are concerned about individual exposure,” said the official.

“We also believe the distribution of dosimeters will help ease parents’  worries if they confirm their children’s exposure does not pose health risks.”

He added that radiation in the city had been below the official threshold  for health risks, and said the children’s dosimeters would be read out once a  month to assess cumulative radiation exposure.

Since the March 11 disaster, Japan has raised the legal exposure limit for  people, including children, from one to 20 millisieverts per year — matching  the safety standard for nuclear industry workers in many countries.

Environmental activist group Greenpeace called on Japan last Thursday to  evacuate children and pregnant women from the town.    It said its people were being exposed to 10 to 20 millisieverts per year  through the air, not counting contaminants inhaled or ingested, a level  Greenpeace considers unacceptable, especially for high-risk groups.

Radiation experts agree that children are at the greatest risk from cancers  and genetic defects because they are still growing are more prone to thyroid  cancers, and because they will have more time to develop health defects.

The city of Date, located just outside the nuclear no-go zone, said last  Thursday it would distribute radiation dosimeters to all its 8,000 pre-school,  elementary and junior high pupils, a news report said.

Tokyo, June 14, 2011 (AFP)