Backgrounds: On March 11th 2011, the Tohoku region of Japan was struck by catastrophic disasters. Thousands of people were killed due to a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and its subsequent tsunami. Furthermore, a serious nuclear crisis occurred in Fukushima Prefecture as a result of the disasters, and an emergency evacuation was ordered to people living near the nuclear power plants. There was a lot of anxiety regarding lost families as well as the influences of radioactivity on the health of people and their children. Based on these urgent and uncertain situations, a number of research projects were developed at many institutes both inside and outside Fukushima.
Methods: We herein report the investigative research projects related to the Tohoku Earthquake (The Great East Japan Earthquake) conducted after the disasters. The research projects were reviewed by the Institutional Review Board in Fukushima Medical University during the two years following the disasters. The research projects conducted in universities other than Fukushima Medical University were also examined using questionnaire analysis.
Results: Among the research projects conducted in Fukushima Medical University (n=424), 7% (n=32) were disaster-related investigative research. The mean duration planned to pursue the projects was 25.5 months. Among these projects, those focusing on the health of Fukushima citizens were most common (n=9), followed by the influence of chronic exposure of radiation on chronic inflammatory disorders (n=6), and the mental health of Fukushima citizens (n=5). They were carefully reviewed for the purpose, suitability, and necessity from ethical as well as scientific viewpoints. The majority of the research projects focused on the effects of the Tohoku Earthquake and/or chronic exposure to low-dose radioactivity on the health of children and pregnant women, as well as on various disorders, such as mental health and chronic inflammatory diseases. On the other hand, among 58 projects we collected from 22 institutes in prefectures other than Fukushima, mental health-related projects were the most common (n=18), followed by radiation exposure-related projects (n=10).
Conclusions: Many of these projects are ongoing, and in particular, long term follow-up regarding the health of the residents of Fukushima Prefecture, especially children and pregnant women, is necessary.
2015 The Fukushima Society of Medical Science