by Matthew M. Burke / Stars and Stripes / January 27, 2014 /
Congress has instructed the Defense Department to launch an inquiry into potential health impacts on Navy first-responders from Japan’s March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.
The request, made in the explanatory statement from the House that accompanied the fiscal 2014 budget bill that passed Congress this month, comes as a growing number of sailors and Marines have joined a lawsuit against Tokyo Electric Power Co.
While the instruction is not law, Defense Department officials said that they were taking the request seriously.
“The Department treats reporting requirements included in committee reports seriously and tries to respond to all of them,” Defense Department spokesman Army Lt. Col. Catherine Wilkinson wrote in a statement to Stars and Stripes.
The statement gives Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. Jonathan Woodson until April 15 to submit a report to the congressional defense committees that includes the number of sailors serving on the USS Ronald Reagan during Operation Tomodachi who were potentially exposed to increased levels of radiation; adverse medical conditions experienced by Reagan sailors since the operation; and actions taken before, during and after the operation to ensure sailors’ safety.