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Fukushima residents prefer random sampling to blanket screening for rice radiation tests

5 February 2020

A fiscal 2019 survey of residents in Fukushima Prefecture has found 46.0% favor the local government's policy decision to shift to "random sampling" from the current practice of blanket screening for radiation testing on all bags of newly cropped rice, according to survey results announced on Feb. 4. The ratio exceeded the 40.0% who favored "continuation" of the present blanket checks for the first time since fiscal 2015 when the topic was first included in an annual poll conducted by the Fukushima Prefecture Liaison Committee of Consumer Organizations.

Meanwhile, 13.0% replied that "all bags may not be tested," showing an increase of 2.8 percentage points. "As a result of the careful transmission of information on the outcome of inspections, a sense of safety appears to be spreading among prefectural residents," a committee member said.

The survey covered 1,334 residents. The ratio of those seeking the continuation of checks on all bags shrank to about half the level of fiscal 2015, when it was at 81.3% amid concerns over radioactive fallout from the Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant that was crippled by the 2011 earthquake and ensuing tsunami.

Of those polled who desire random sampling, 24.9% chose "inspection of a sample from every farming family," up 4.7 points from the previous year, and 21.1% sought "inspection of every municipal sample," down 1.3 points.

"We think the outcome has resulted from progress made in people's understanding of safety," said an official of the prefectural government's section in charge of rice paddies and dry fields. As for the 40% portion of respondents seeking the continuation of blanket inspections, the official said the authorities "would like to keep sending out precise and careful information that will lead to the ensuring of confidence" in the safety of local rice.

* Survey method: Members of the Fukushima Prefecture Liaison Committee of Consumer Organizations distributed 1,550 copies of a questionnaire from July to August last year, and 1,334 people or 86% responded. Male respondents accounted for 462 and females 872. The age bracket that logged the largest number of replies was respondents in their 70s, who numbered 367, while the age group to respond the least was those in their 30s, at 106. Respondents were from municipalities in the cities of Fukushima, Koriyama, Date, Nihonmatsu, Shirakawa, Aizuwakamatsu, Sukagawa, Motomiya, Tamura and Soma; the towns of Kawamata, Inawashiro, Minamiaizu, Aizumisato, Namie, Koori, Ono, Ishikawa and Tanagura; and the villages of Iitate, Otama and Nishigo.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

31 January 2020

Fukushima team makes world’s 1st discovery on prostate enlargement disorder

A research team at Fukushima Medical University has found how an immune "complement" system for eliminating disease-causing microbes that invade humans and other organisms works to cause the enlargement of the prostate gland. According to the prefectural university, the study has shed light on prostatic hypertrophy disorder, known technically as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), for the first time in the world.

The team includes lecturer Junya Hata, 33, and professor Yoshiyuki Kojima, 50, at the university's Department of Urology, as well as professor Hideharu Sekine, 51, and lecturer Takeshi Machida, 38, from the Department of Immunology.

Generally, a complement system works as a major component of innate immune mechanisms in removing microorganisms that invade the body. However, it has also recently been found to cause inflammation related to various diseases.

The Fukushima team, focusing on the possibility of this mechanism working on BPH development, used tissues from a BPH-affected human prostatic gland and other materials in the study. As a result, one of three mechanisms of complement activation was found to especially lead to amplified inflammation.

The results of the study may lead to the development of a new drug, among other possibilities. A paper on the outcome was published in the December 2019 edition of a British science magazine, "Scientific Reports."

BPH occurs in about half of elderly men, plaguing them with symptoms such as difficulty with urination and bladder control. Male hormones are suspected of playing a role in causing the disease, but full understanding has yet to be achieved.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

26 January 2020

Extra train planned on Joban Line on March 14 to mark resumption of full services

East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) is expected to operate a special train on March 14, when the entire JR Joban Line is set to resume full services, in celebration of the restoration of a stretch between Tomioka and Namino stations in Fukushima Prefecture.

The one-day-only train will make extended stops at each of three stations -- Yorunomori (town of Tomioka), Ono (town of Okuma) and Futaba (town of Futaba) -- on the reopening stretch of the line disrupted by the 2011 earthquake and ensuing tsunami. It is intended to allow local residents sufficient time to celebrate with passengers at each stop.

The three towns of Tomioka, Okuma and Futaba are scheduled to hold events at each station to commemorate the moment, presenting passengers with mementos, among other celebratory activities. As regular services stop for only a minute or so at each station, JR East plans to run an extra train that can make relatively long stops.

JR East is discussing details of the special service such as an operating schedule and the length of stop times. It is currently focused on the operation of a northbound train starting from Iwaki Station. Coordination is underway to make the stops at Yorunomori, Ono and Futaba stations, in that order, where passengers will receive a welcome from local municipalities.

Upon full resumption of services on the Joban Line, JR East will operate a total of 22 northbound and southbound ordinary trains per day between Hirono and Haranomachi stations, and six limited express "Hitachi" between Shinagawa or Ueno stations in Tokyo and Sendai Station in Miyagi Prefecture.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

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