How Fukushima nuclear disaster affected monkeys

Macaques in Fukushima region found are low white and red blood cell levels and high on radioactive caesium, says study

By Rajit Sengupta
Published: Tuesday 29 July 2014

Japanese macaque Monkeys are the latest casualty of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant disaster. A new study suggests that the radioactive fallout of the disaster has lowered the immunity of Japanese macaques in Fukushima region.

The scientists found that macaques from the region have low white and red blood cell levels and low haemoglobin, making the species prone to infectious diseases.

The scientists compared 61 monkeys living 70km from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant with 31 monkeys from the Shimokita Penisula, over 400km from Fukushima. The Fukushima monkeys had low blood counts and radioactive caesium in their bodies, whereas the Shimokita macaques had no trace of radioactive caesium.

The findings, published in the peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports, rules out disease or malnutrition as a cause of the low blood counts.

Professor Shin-ichi Hayama at the Nippon Veterinary and Life Science University in Tokyo told the Guardian that during Japan’s snowy winters the monkeys feed on tree buds and bark, where caesium has been shown to accumulate at high concentrations.

“This first data from non-human primates — the closest taxonomic relatives of humans — should make a notable contribution to future research on the health effects of radiation exposure in humans,” he told the newspaper.

The accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant was triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

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