We are “Sheltering in Place,” which means I’m staying home from work in my jammies and reading books about geisha. First thing this morning, measurable levels of radiation were detected in the air on Atsugi Base.
Normally that would not concern me at all, but the day after I found out we’re having a baby I had a dentist appointment. I pointed to the danger sign on the wall of the x-ray room and said, “I’m pregnant. What’s the danger to the baby?” “Miscarriage,” said the lab technician. “Ok, I don’t want that,” I said. The levels of radiation this morning (thanks to that third nuclear plant explosion) were about one-third to one-full chest x-ray. Chris called and recommended I look into plane tickets to Texas.
The problem is, with many train lines out and many roads around Tokyo closed, it’s really difficult to get across town to the airport. On a good day it’s a two-hour drive. It’s looking more like five hours these days. And that’s before the check-in wait, the 12-hour flight to LAX, the layover, the four-hour flight to Houston. Blah. I’m weighing physical stress against low levels of radiation—that is a tough call, especially if I get to Texas and have to turn around and come back soon afterwards.
Everything I was doing today was canceled and dependents were instructed to stay inside to avoid about half the radiation. Then this afternoon the radiation diminished to levels equal to an hours’-worth of cellphone usage or TV-watching. I stopped being so concerned and Chris and I decided to wait for more information.
About 30 minutes ago we had another 5-ish earthquake that shook for a long time (We’re still shaking, in fact), but surprise—it didn’t originate up north. It was a 6+ in Shizuoka—right around…Mt. Fuji! Does that bother anyone?
Then I read this interesting New York Times article by David Leonhardt, who says, “Japanese government may not be doing enough to warn pregnant women to leave any areas at risk of radiation exposure. Those areas can be much farther from the nuclear plants than many people realize….”
He quotes Douglas Almond, a Columbia University economist who studied the effects of the Chernobyl disaster as saying, “Swedish students who were in utero during the accident experienced significantly lower cognitive function, as reflected in performance on standardized tests in middle school, especially those tests that correspond best to IQ….The damage was greatest for cohorts…of gestational age 8-25 weeks at the time of the accident.” So, “The point,” Michael Greenstone, an M.I.T. economist, says, “is that the Japanese government should be issuing stronger warnings to pregnant women.”
I feel like we’re playing some weird game of chicken with Japan. How do we react appropriately without overreacting? Do we wait for a US-mandated evacuation, or self-evacuate? So you goooooootta let me knooooooooow…Should I stay or should I go?