Fukushima radiation in northern Japan continues to affect the island nation and beyond, particularly 50 U.S. Navy sailors who were exposed to radiation during a humanitarian trip after the 2011 disaster and today suffer from a variety of health issues.
In March 2011, Navy Sailor Lindsay Cooper was standing on the deck of the USS Ronald Reagan when billows of metallic-tasting snow began drifting across the shift, the New York Post reported.
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"I was standing on the flight deck, and we felt this warm gust of air, and, suddenly, it was snowing," 24-year-old Cooper told the Post.
She and her fellow sailors were inhaling snow caused by the mixture of freezing Pacific air with the radioactive plumes of steam given off by the Fukushima reactor.
"We joked about it: ‘Hey, it’s radioactive snow!’" Cooper recalled. "I took pictures and video."
Now, a little more than two and a half years later, Cooper along with 50 or so other Navy personnel who took part in the humanitarian mission are suffering from several forms of cancer, thyroid disease, uterine bleeding, and other ailments, the New York Post reported.
"We’re seeing leukemia, testicular cancer, and unremitting gynecological bleeding requiring transfusions and other intervention," said Paul Garner, a lawyer representing 51 Navy personnel suing the Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the Fukushima Daiichi energy plant.
"Then you have thyroid polyps, other thyroid diseases," added Garner.
According to Senior Chief Michael Sebourn, a radiation-decontamination officer assigned to the USS Ronald Reagan, the ship was unable to get away from the plume of radiation by the time it realized it was in its path.
In addition to the radioactive snow, toxic seawater entered the ship’s desalinization system, which was then pumped through the boat’s faucets and showers, making direct contact with the crew members.
Also, the radiation in the air measured 300 times higher than what was considered safe, Sebourn told the Post.
Sebourn, a former personal trainer, says he suffers from numerous ailments today, including severe nosebleeds, headaches, and debilitating weakness, adding that his limbs have visibly shrunk and has lost 60 percent of his strength in the right side of his body, the New York Post reported.
"I’ve had four MRIs, and I’ve been to 20 doctors," Sebourn said. "No one can figure out what is wrong."
Sebourn has since left the Navy after 17 years of service.
As for Cooper, her thyroid has stopped working due to enlarged lymph nodes in her neck, which she fears is the prerequisite to cancer.
"This isn’t about financial gain," Cooper said of the lawsuit. "This is about what’s going to happen while I’m sick, and then after I’m gone."
Cooper is a single mother of a 4-year-old girl named Serenity.
"I worry," she added, her voice choking, "because I have a daughter. And I’m so sick."
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