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Earless Rabbit A Sign of Fukushima Damage? (VIDEO)

Earless Rabbit A Sign of Fukushima Damage? (VIDEO)

Is the birth of an earless rabbit a sign of the effects of the Fukushima disaster in Japan? The rabbit was reportedly found near Fukushima in May and, as Salon notes, it has been hailed as a sign of the Fukushima disaster’s catastrophic damage by the Japanese media. The video below was posted on May 21 on YouTube:

Scientists quoted in AOL News point out that other factors could have caused an apparently “mutant bunny” to be born. Says F. Ward Whicker, professor emeritus at Colorado State University’s Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences:

“Yes, radiation can cause mutations that can be occasionally expressed as obvious birth defects, such as shown in the video,” Whicker wrote in an e-mail. “However, to say this is the result of contamination from the Fukushima accident is a stretch, because natural radiation, as well as many other chemical substances in the environment and other factors, can also be mutagenic.”

In most cases, the cause of congenital birth defects in humans and other animals cannot be determined, he said.

“So far as science has shown, there have never been mutations produced by ionizing radiations that do not occur spontaneously as well.”

Mary Cotter, a licensed veterinary technician and New York City chapter manager for the House Rabbit Society, points out that rabbits can look like they were born without ears due to a mother rabbit over-grooming her young and chewing off their ears (in which case there would be “jagged edges of flesh surrounding their auditory canals” — not that it needs to be pointed out, but nature’s realities are far, far removed from Disneyfied cutesiness).

The questions over how the rabbit was born in such an earless state reflects the uncertainty of scientists and the Japanese over the long-term health risks of the Fukushima disaster. As the New York Times reports, it’s uncertain what the effects of exposure to small doses of radiation over a long period of time might be:

The general assumption is that when people are exposed to small doses for decades, the incidence of cancer will rise over time. But that prediction is based on extrapolating from data on people who were exposed to acute brief doses when atomic bombs were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945 — not on observing individuals exposed to small doses over decades.

Some researchers argue that all humans are regularly exposed to a low natural level of radiation, and that it is not harmful when below a certain threshold, although fetuses may be an exception. Another vocal minority argues that there is statistical evidence for higher cancer rates among people exposed to tiny incremental doses.

The debate about the effects of the Fukushima disaster have so far centered mostly on children in Japan. Initially, government guidelines made after the disaster “allowed schoolchildren in Fukushima Prefecture to be exposed to 20 times the radiation dose previously permitted.” After harsh parental outcry, the government lowered the permissible level and said it would move contaminated topsoil from schools. If more earless, or other deformed, animals are found, let’s hope the Japanese government doesn’t keep dragging its feet to find out what’s really going on, and let people know.  

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Photo by SandoCap.

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32 comments

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11:45AM PDT on Jun 18, 2011

I am sure the full effects will be known in the following decades.

5:10PM PDT on Jun 15, 2011

I'm not surprised...

10:00AM PDT on Jun 15, 2011

Not Good

8:47PM PDT on Jun 14, 2011

Poor thing,I feel so bad for him/her. This is scary.

12:35AM PDT on Jun 13, 2011

Birth defects helped along by radiation and toxins? Hmmm.

10:23AM PDT on Jun 12, 2011

Birthdefects happens all the time, this time we can blem the radiation.

3:50AM PDT on Jun 11, 2011

Still looks cute though...

11:11PM PDT on Jun 10, 2011

oh please. Who does this guy think he's kidding? Seriously - when so called scientists have swept so many inconvenient truths under the carpet for so long, who can believe a word they say any more?

9:40PM PDT on Jun 10, 2011

Horrible...I'm afraid to think that those rabbits aren't being raised to be pets, but more probably dinner.

6:28PM PDT on Jun 10, 2011

Just wait for the three eyed fish and 3 armed kids.

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches ancient Greek, Latin and Classics at Saint Peter's University in New Jersey.... more
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