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Published January 2, 2014


Many Americans along the West Coast have been fearful that dangerous radiation from the Japanese nuclear disaster at the Fukushima power plant would drift across the Pacific Ocean and injure Americans.  Apart from sea creatures struck down by radiation that have drifted to U.S. shores, Americans have seen no impact from Fukushima – until now, that is.

No Americans have been harmed it should be said.  In fact, in a sense Fukushima has only provided Americans with a dose of whimsy.  In the Pacific Northwest – a region in love with its abundant sea food – children consuming a large amount of seafood have developed a greenish hue to their outer extremities.  Experts are unanimous that the greenish hue likely derives from the consumption of radioactive seafood.  They are also thus far unanimous that affected youth are not at risk.

“We have no evidence that the greenish coloration means anything bad is happening,” said pediatrician John H. Walker of the Oregon Institute of Public Health.  “It also is critical that we do not frighten these kids or subject them to ridicule by their peers,” said Walker.

Plot map of known Fuki hands cases in WA and OR.University of Washington professor of nuclear sciences Nathan P. Thurme believes that the green coloration comes from Fukushima but that parents should not overreact.  In fact, he believes that parents should make their kids feel “special” about the changes going on in their bodies.  “Until these kids start losing body mass, we should not presume that the radiation is having an adverse effect,” Thurme said.  Generally, young children react more to environmental agents, according the Thurme.  Minor changes to their fragile endocrine systems easily might explain the pigmentation changes.  

“Given what we know about the fragility of kids’ psyche, we should encourage these kids to have fun with the changes to their bodies rather than stigmatize them,” Thurme said.

Radioactive Cesium-137, which appears to have infiltrated Sockeye salmon that migrate into the Columbia River system, is believed to be causing the pigmentation changes.  “All things being the same, we would prefer that kids not be exposed to [radioactive] Cesium,” said Ronald MacFarlane of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  “But since we see that it might be going on, we need to assess the impact, if any, and protect the self-esteem of these children.”

Monica Rothman, 10, of Portland, Oregon said that she likes having greenish finger and toe tips -- dubbed by kids as “Fuki hands” -- “I like having Fuki hands because only one other kid at school has them,” she said.  

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