Scientists believe Fukushima radiation levels have affected numerous plants and animals throughout the region. In a recent study, researchers noted genetic mutations in monkeys, birds, insects, and several plants, in and near Fukushima, Japan. U.S. and Japanese scientists agree the mutations were likely caused by radiation -- which was released in the March 2011 disaster.
On March 16, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off the Pacific coast of Japan. Approximately one hour later, the coast was struck with a powerful tsunami. As a result of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami, the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Plant sustained serious damage.
Immediately following the disaster, the plant began leaking an undetermined amount of radiation. Although reports are conflicting, many officials agree the plant continues to emit some degree of radiation into the surrounding region.
Although the Fukushima radiation did not appear to cause any immediate damage to humans, animals, or plants, researchers are beginning to notice long-term issues.
As reported by RIA Novosti, at least 46 studies have been conducted in and around the disaster site in the last three years. A meta-analysis, published in the Journal of Heredity, suggests numerous animals and plants are being affected by the increase in radiation levels.
According to the report, a "variety of species" have experienced "a wide range of physiological, developmental, morphological, and behavioral consequences of exposure to radioactive contaminants."
Additionally, several species of birds, insects, and animals, have experienced physical deformities, lowered sperm count, and compromised immunology.
Dr. Timothy Mousseau, with the University of South Carolina, noted similarities in barn swallows collected near Chernobyl and Fukushima. The swallows in both regions developed "white spots on their plumage" following the disasters.
Mousseau's research suggests the frequency of the white spots increased in the years following the Fukushima radiation leak. Therefore, it is likely that the spots were caused by a genetic mutation -- which "can be inherited."
Unfortunately, several studies suggest animals, birds, and plants, with genetic mutations have shortened life spans.
Mousseau admits the studies are far from complete. However, the three-year trend is quite disturbing. In addition to barn swallows, abnormalities were observed in Japanese macaques monkeys, the pale grass blue butterfly, and several other species of insects and plants.
Dr. Mousseau suggests a "greater investment in basic scientific research of the wild animals and plants of Fukushima." Although several genetic mutations were recently associated with an increase in Fukushima radiation levels, it could take years to realize the full impact.
[Image via Cloudfront]