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But while the Fukushima disaster has faded from world headlines, many Japanese remain concerned about their long-term health. And many don’t trust reassurances from government scientists like Yasumura, of the Fukushima survey.

Many consumers worry about the safety of food from Fukushima and surrounding prefectures, although produce and fish found to be above government-set limits for contamination have been barred from the market. For example, mushrooms harvested in and around Fukushima are frequently found to be contaminated and barred from market. Controversy has also erupted around the government’s choice of a maximum allowed level for internal radiation exposure from food.

Fukushima has distributed radiation monitors to 280,000 children at its elementary and junior high schools. Many children are allowed to play outside only two or three hours a day. Schools have removed topsoil on the playgrounds to reduce the dose, and the Education Ministry provided radiation handbooks for teachers. Thousands of children have been moved out of Fukushima since the March disasters, mainly due to radiation fears.

Many parents and concerned citizens in and around Fukushima, some even as far as Tokyo, carry Geiger counters for daily measurement of radiation levels in their neighborhoods, especially near schools and kindergartens. The devices are probably one of the most popular electronics gadgets across Japan these days. People can rent them at DVD shops or drug stores in Fukushima, while many Internet rental businesses specializing in Geiger counters also have emerged.

Citizens groups are also setting up radiation measuring centers where people can submit vegetables, milk or other foods for tests. Some people are turning to traditional Japanese diet _ pickled plum, miso soup and brown rice _ based on a belief that it boosts the immune system.

“I try what I believe is the best, because I don’t trust the government any more,” says Chieko Shiina, who has turned to that diet. The 65-year-old Fukushima farmer had to close a small Japanese-style inn due to the nuclear crisis.

She thinks leaving Fukushima would be safer but says there is nowhere else to go.

“I know we continue to be irradiated, even right at this moment. I know it would be best just to leave Fukushima,” she said.

Yuka Saito, a mother of four who lives in a Fukushima neighborhood where the evacuation order was recently lifted, said she and her three youngest children spent the summer in Hokkaido to get away from the radiation. She tells her children, ages 6 to 15, to wear medical masks, long-sleeved shirts and a hat whenever they go out, and not to play outside.

She still avoids drinking tap water and keeps a daily log of her own radiation monitoring around the house, kindergarten and schools her children attend.

“We Fukushima people are exposed to radiation more than anyone else outside the prefecture, but we just have to do our best to cope,” she said. “We cannot stay inside the house forever.”

Japanese officials say mental health problems caused by excessive fear of radiation are prevalent and posing a bigger problem than actual risk of cancer caused by radiation.

But what kind of cancer risks do the Japanese really face?

Information on actual radiation exposures for individuals is scarce, and some experts say they can’t draw any conclusions yet about risk to the population.

But Michiaki Kai, professor of environmental health at Oita University of Nursing and Health Sciences, said that based on tests he’s seen on people and their exposure levels, nobody in Fukushima except for some plant workers has been exposed to harmful levels of radiation.

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