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Friday, April 22, 2011

Doctor says nuclear workers are in danger of overwork death

Japan's nuclear workers who are battling the crisis at the crippled power plant are at risk of depression, poor diet and sanitation and stress, said Dr. Takeshi Tanigawa.
They are not only exposed to the dangers of the radioactive substances of Fukushima Dai-Ichi reactors but are also working in severe conditions, according to Dr. Tanigawa, an industrial physician in two of Tokyo Electric Power Company's (TEPCO) plants, who examined them on Wednesday, The Japan Times reported.
TEPCO's nuclear employees also feel a sense of moral responsibility having been exposed to several stresses like barely surviving the double calamities of magnitude 9.0 earthquake and gigantic tsunamis on 11 March, the doctor continued.
Many of the workers live within 20 kilometers from the leaking power station where around 80,000 residents live.
Other workers lost some of their relatives and homes during the onslaught of the giant waves.
The exposure to hydrogen blasts are another source of health hazard. They worry about their exposure to radiation and its long-term effects.
After examining 90 TEPCO nuclear employees from Saturday through Tuesday at Reactor No.2, the doctor said, "Many are complaining of difficulty sleeping and the risks of depression and death from overwork will rise further if this goes on.
After a day's work, they are decontaminated, proceed to Reactor No.2, which is about 10 kilometers south. They sleep in a gymnasium’s floor with sleeping bags and blankets over tatami mats, said the Ehime University physician and professor.
One worker was not allowed to go home at one point, and worked round the clock.
They sustain on poor nutrition eating canned or ready-to-eat packed foods. They initially had to eat only once per day but now, they can eat three meals each day.
The nuclear employees work in shift of four days with two days off.
They cannot take baths during those four days of work and heavily sweat under the protective clothing.
Tanigawa warned, "Being unable to feel refreshed, they are not only vulnerable to various diseases and skin disorders but also may commit errors in their work."
The doctor also said that the workers' family discouraging them to work is another source of stress.
"More than 80 percent of the on-site employees have their homes within a 20-km radius of the nuclear plant and some of them have lost family members.
"It was also stressful for some workers who were unable to confirm the safety of families for as long as a week to continue working.
"On the other hand, they tend to feel indebted for working for an offending company and so cannot raise their voices."
Around 50 employees were diagnosed with hypertension and upper respiratory tract infections. One had high-grade fever that made the doctor advice TEPCO to be replaced.
The nuclear facility announced on Sunday its master plan to control the situation within nine months.
Dr. Tanigawa advised the plant’s operator to utilize all its manpower so as not to overwork its current employees. They need to rest also.
Finally, the doctor advised, "Employees engaged in the dangerous work have human rights and wives and children just like others. We should not treat their lives without due respect."
Watch the attached YouTube video.
Details of this story here.

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