Monkeys in Fukushima Show 'Effects of Radiation' Due To Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant

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A monkey dressed as The Monkey King stands with a chain around its neck at a zoo in Shenyang, Liaoning province May 10, 2014. Reuters

A study done by a Japanese research team showed that monkeys near the Fukushima region, which was affected by the nuclear power plant, possess lesser blood cell counts than those monkeys living away from the area. The paper was published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

The researchers wrote that the decrease in blood count could be because of exposure to radioactive material, though there have been no specific evidence to prove this. It is being said that as a result of low blood count, the monkeys are more viable to diseases as their immune systems have been weakened to a certain extent. 

The research involved the comparison of the levels in the white and red blood cells of macaques present in the area 70 kilometres from the Fukushima nuclear plant with that of monkeys living at a distance of 400 kilometres away in the area of Shimokita Peninsula.

The researchers noted that the monkeys belonging to the region close to the Fukushima nuclear power plant had lesser blood counts when compared to their Shimokita cousins. The study's purpose was to identify the effects on health due to long-term radioactive exposure on macaques, keeping in mind the earthquake and nuclear meltdown that took place in Mukushima in the year 2011.

A biologist from the University of South Carolina suggested that the findings of the study was consistent with a study undertaken by his team which showed that children living around Chernobyl had lesser red blood cells and haemoglobin content.

The research term explained that such a study will help contribute to how it would affect humans as well as the macaques are human's closest relatives. The research method adopted was criticised by many.

Environmental science professor at the University of Portsmouth, Jim Smith, explained that the dosage that the study undertook has no significant effect on the count of the blood cells in the monkeys. He continued that the low cell counts in the monkeys in Fukushima is not due to radiation.

Another professor, Geraldine Thomas, added that the doses of radiation that the monkeys would have received is much lower than that of what a human receives while they travel on a flight from London to Tokyo. She explained that the decrease in blood count could be because of factors like environmental changes that the tsunami brought or a new diet.

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