3. An Unusually High Incidence of Liver Ailments

Chapter 3: The Central, South Pacific and Australia
Part 2: Caught in the Fallout—Daigo Fukuryu Maru

Returning to the case of the Fukuryu Maru, we found that eight of the original twenty-three crew members had died. Discounting one who died in a car accident, four died of cancer of the liver and the others of various other liver ailments.

Dr. Kumatori Toshiyuki was the physician in charge of the crew's treatment in Tokyo directly after their return in 1954, and he continued to be involved with them as director general of the National Institute of Radiological Sciences until 1986. He examined the men regularly over this thirty-year period. We asked him to explain why so many of the crew had died of liver ailments.

"Over a fourteen-day period the men were exposed to doses of radiation of between 170 and 600 rads. Their blood corpuscle count declined, and in some cases sperm production was halted for two years. However, I can't say with complete certainty that their liver damage was caused by exposure to radiation—it may have been a virus they were infected with via the blood transfusions."

Aoki Yoshiro, director of the Division of Radiation Health at the institute, has been continuing Dr. Kumatori's work. Dr. Aoki told us that his examinations of nine of the crew in February 1990 revealed five with some type of liver complaint. He was reluctant to make any connection with radiation, but he did acknowledge that this figure is abnormally high. Professor Miyoshi Kazuo, another doctor who treated the crew of the Fukuryu Maru soon after their arrival back in Japan, is deeply concerned about this unusually high incidence of liver damage.

"The crew of the Fukuryu Maru are more likely than the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to have absorbed radiation through inhalation or food," he commented. "Therefore, it's the liver that is most likely to be affected, as its function is to filter out harmful substances." When asked whether the crew's liver conditions could have been caused by a virus, he told us that radiation is known to lower the body's resistance. In other words, either directly or indirectly, he believes that their illnesses were probably caused by exposure to radiation from the Bikini test in 1954.