Sailors from the USS Ronald Reagan, which helped in the rescue effort after the tsunami struck Japan in March 2011, have since experienced a variety of illnesses, which they say are due to radiation exposure. They have filed a federal lawsuit against the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) alleging the company withheld information about the radiation contamination near the power plant, allowing rescuers to operate in dangerous waters.
More than fifty U.S. Navy members who served aboard the Reagan and the USS Essex now trace illnesses including thyroid and testicular cancers, leukemia and brain tumors to their service near Fukushima, Fox News reports. The ship’s cooking, drinking, and bathing water is provided through a desalination system that pulls in and treats seawater. The lawsuit alleges that TEPCO delayed telling the Navy about the nuclear meltdown that sent large amounts of contaminated water into the sea and this water was drawn into the ship’s water system, exposing the crew to radiation.
In the months following the rescue work, a number of those involved experienced symptoms including lumps on the skin, hemorrhaging, bronchitis, leukemia, and thyroid and testicular cancers. An attorney for the sailors said, “They did not go in prepared to deal with radiation containment.” Because TEPCO concealed the full extent of the damage to the plant, the rescuers rushed into “an unsafe area” too close to the damaged plant, according to Fox News. “The officers and crew of the U.S.S. Reagan (CVN-76) and other vessels believed that it was safe to operate within the waters adjacent to the FNPP.” Former Prime Minister Naoto Jan recently said the first meltdown occurred five hours after the tsunami, not the next day as reported at the time.
Though the Department of Defense will not comment on the pending lawsuit, a spokesperson told FoxNews.com that the Pentagon is monitoring and collecting data on radiation exposure in the region.