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Hiroshima residents exposed to A-bomb 'black rain' developed health problems: lawyers

People watch fires light up the surface of the Motoyasu River in front of the A-Bomb Dome in Hiroshima's Naka Ward during an event to pray for the victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and to express hope for peace in the world on the night of Aug. 5, 2019. (Mainichi/Hitoshi Sonobe)

HIROSHIMA -- Nearly all of the 85 plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit who claim to have been exposed to radioactive "black rain" that fell on Hiroshima and surrounding areas in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. atomic bombing of the city in 1945 have been diagnosed with health problems that could be related to radiation, their lawyers said.

The plaintiffs, of whom eight have already died, and their representatives have brought the case to the Hiroshima District Court, demanding the Hiroshima prefectural and municipal governments provide them health care benefits on the basis that they were exposed to the radioactive rain outside the designated area set by the central government. Research by the legal team representing the plaintiffs have revealed that almost all of the plaintiffs have been diagnosed with health issues that "radiation cannot be ruled out" as their causes.

The state has issued certificates for A-bomb survivors who were in the designated area near the epicenter. These certificates enable them to receive free medical care. As the actual health damage caused by the radioactive black rain remains unclear, however, the central government in 1976 named a 19-kilometer by 11-kilometer area northwest from the state-designated radiation exposure area "a special health checkup zone." Those who were in this zone are subject to free health checkups, and if they develop illnesses involving at least one of 11 kinds of disorders that the government lists as potentially radiation-related, such as cardiovascular diseases, they are given the certificates.

While the Hiroshima prefectural and municipal governments have requested the state to expand the scope of this zone, the central government has not accepted their request saying that there is no scientific evidence.

In November 2015, the plaintiffs sued the two local bodies that have been commissioned by the state to screen applications for A-bomb survivors' certificates. Based on the locations of their residence at the time of the bombing and their experiences, they claim that they were in situations where they could have been affected by radiation, with some of them saying that they developed cancer and other diseases.

The state, on the other hand, is demanding the court drop the case, arguing that subjective concerns alone does not grant people the right to such care.

Experts say these plaintiffs need to be given relief measures soon as their illnesses were caused by internal exposure to radiation. The legal team plan to present a case during a hearing of witnesses scheduled on Oct. 16.

(Japanese original by Misa Koyama, Hiroshima Bureau)

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