An 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck Honshu, Japan on March 11, 2011. A subsequent tsunami hit the coast and caused severe and widespread damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and to numerous buildings, roads, and power lines, particularly along the east coast of the Tohoku region. AAP leaders monitored this situation and communicated with the Japan Pediatric Society to ensure that children's needs were considered and taken care of in a strategic manner.
Travel to Japan
The security and safety of members remains a high priority for the AAP. Members who consider traveling to provide medical relief are urged to educate themselves about the reality of travel details, security issues, liability insurance, living conditions, and other details regarding the provision of medical care in austere conditions. It is important that health care professionals carry copies of licenses and board certifications when traveling, as well as become knowledgeable about documentation needed when taking medicines into a foreign country.
The AAP does not endorse nor approve any particular means of traveling to or volunteering in Japan, yet the organization hopes to continue to keep its members informed of relevant details and opportunities. Members should keep in mind that spontaneous volunteerism can overwhelm a response system. See Health Care Volunteers and Disaster Response - First, Be Prepared
, an article written after the Haiti Earthquakes for guidance.
Radiation Safety in Japan
In Japan, certain public health protection measures are being employed. People are advised to delay non-essential travel and to stay outside of the area within a 50 mile radius of Fukushima. Potassium iodide is of proven value for thyroid protection, but must be given before or soon after exposure to radioiodines. Some adults in Japan were provided with potassium iodide as a protective measure but were advised not to take this unless directed to do so by health authorities.Safety in the United States
There is no health risk for radiation exposure to US residents from events in Japan. Radiation monitors confirm that people in the US need not be concerned about additional health risks as a result of this disaster. See the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy joint press release
Radiation Disasters and Children
The pediatrician has a critical role in planning for radiation disasters. The AAP policy Radiation Disasters and Children
outlines various types of nuclear incidents, treatment and management issues for children exposed to radiation, guidelines for potassium iodide administration, key public health actions, and recommendations for pediatricians. Also see Radiologic/Nuclear Terrorism