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Japan: It's in the Milk

Categories: East Asia, Japan, Breaking News, Environment, Food, Governance, Health

A group of scientists announced yesterday [1] that Japanese women's breast milk has been found to contain polychlorinated/brominated coplanar biphenyls, or Co-PXBs, a toxin similar to the pollutant PCB [2]. Possible sources of the toxins include a contaminated fish supply, fumes from garbage incinerators [3], and factory wastewater.

Blogger Mumon outlines and comments on the findings [4]:


According to analysis performed by a university research group and made public on Sept. 5th, a bromine compound has apparently been accumulating in the breast milk of Japanese women. The structure and toxicity of this bromine compound is said to be similar to that of PCB.


The main cause [of the contamination] is thought to be the concentration and accumulation of [toxins] in the world's fish, which enter the body when the fish are ingested. Come to think of it, fishing boats from around the world are docking at Yaizu Port, which prides itself on having the largest fish production in Japan, and a lot of fish from different seas are being gathered together there. Seems like a desolate shadow is creeping over the the dietary culture of fish, which had [previously] been seen as better for your health than animal protein.


I hear that in many regions in China, the number of cancer patients has been increasing. The incidence rates of cancer in 2006 were apparently 19% higher than the year before, and 23% higher in the case of rural areas. Although there is no scientific demonstration yet, it appears that “there is a correlation between contaminants discharged by corporations and the distribution of zones in which large numbers of people have died of cancer”.


Even if the rate increases by just 1%, in the case of China this means that a group of human beings, ten times larger than it would be in Japan, become victims. Think about this, and then about the fact that a rise of about 20% is a whole order of magnitude greater. And then [think]: these contaminants are just flushed into the sea, as if it were something natural……..


The greatest problem is that, in the case of Japan, the checking function of Japanese citizens is operating to a certain degree, but in China, the democratic checking [function] is taken to be the act of rebelling against the national government. Things like political corruption or accounting irregularities are part-and-parcel of a society with a one-party dictatorship. In Japan as well, a one-party dictatorship had continued for a long time, until the Japanese people recently exercised their checking [function].


America, Russia, and China — with Japan also included — it seems that the world's so-called superpowers, in returning to an anatomy of dependence, are destroying this planet. That breast milk alone has put Japan in jeopardy, this is really shocking.

In a post entitled “MADE IN MOM — Is this dangerous too?” (MADE IN お母さん も危ない?), blogger Wadai no Pon Pon expresses shock at the discovery [5]:


When you think that something is safe, and then find out that in fact it is not, that kind of shock is pretty big,
but this was really shocking.


According to the conclusions [of the report], it was apparently discovered that breast milk of Japanese women is contaminated with a chemical compound extremely similar to PCB.


Think about it, breast milk is the bread of life for newborn babies, right?
It's not something that is made in factories, it is a nourishing drink produced with love and affection directly from the body of the mother — at least that's how I used to think of it.

Blogger Risamine, meanwhile, weighs in [6] with a perspective from the theory of psychologist Abraham Maslow [7]:



In the case that fish become inedible, we may be left with no choice but to get our protein from soy beans…

However much developed countries may gather and discuss environmental problems, in China and other developing countries, they are doing everything they can just to get by (the great majority of people in Japan are today also in this situation, but…), and so the environment is not something that is cared about much.




I think [Abraham] Maslow made no mistake when he expressed, in his hierarchy of human needs, that higher-level functionality comes out only when basic wants are fulfilled.

Environmental problems are global problems, so it seems to me that a fundamental solution requires that the capitalist system be changed.

Starting with Gore, there is a large group of people who make use of environmental problems for their own interests. What I really want is that the group of people who are speaking about these things from a broader perspective grows larger, even by just one person.

For more perspectives on the story, see posts from bloggers Arekao [8], Aratetsu [9], and H. Matsui [10].