The Lasting Effects of the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

 
 
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Increase in Anemia

There was a noted increase in patients with anemia, which is a disease where your blood doesn’t create enough red blood cells. The effects of this lasted as long as ten years in some individuals.

Hiroshima before the bombing.
Hiroshima before the bombing.

Increase in Cataracts

Cataracts are when the lens of the eye becomes foggy. This can take several years to develop, and was first found to be an issue three years after the bombs were dropped. Age and distance to the bomb played a big factor in those who developed cataracts. In the mid-1950s, at the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital, there were 435 survivors screened, and 116 had developed cataracts. Of that 116, 87 were within two kilometers of the bomb blast. Cataracts in patients were caused by high radiation levels.

Keloids

In 1946, keloids began to develop. This is where a scar is healing and essentially heals too much, causing it to swell, and can result in abnormal growth. It is believed this is caused by radiation. The scar tissue that would grow would end up looking similar to a crab, which is where the growth gets its name from. Keloid is Ancient Greek for crab. Those who were within one kilometer of the blast were 60 percent more likely to develop the keloids on their burn wounds.

Hiroshima after the bombing.
Hiroshima after the bombing.

Birth Complications

There were only a handful of surveys of this, but one completed in Nagasaki showed a high rate of infant and neonatal deaths. The survey looked at 98 pregnant women who were exposed within 2 kilometers of the blast, as well as 113 women who had been exposed further away from where the bomb was dropped. The survey also noted that one in four babies born by survivors that were surveyed had cognitive disabilities. These children suffered in physical growth and development as well. Some of the children grew to be underweight and were born with  microcephaly – a condition in which the head is smaller than it should be. Microcephaly can’t be cured, but it can be treated. Of total babies born, the number of birth defects was not unusual.

Effects on The Environment

When the bombs were dropped, everything was decimated. Everyone was worried the cities would become nuclear waste fields, where nothing could grow and there would be too much radiation for it to be safe to live. In 1946, there was some hope. The oleander flower began to grow, and the cities began to rebuild with help from Japan. Over time, the radiation levels have dropped, and today are considered safe.

Dome in Hiroshima that survived the blast due to its thick, concrete structure.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial (domed structure), survived the blast due to its thick, concrete structure. Photo Credit.

The cities have long since been rebuilt and are thriving. As of 2010, Hiroshima had a population of 1.2 million. While Nagasaki had a population in 2009 of 446,000. The rebuilding of Nagasaki was slow. The first emergency temporary homes were not completed until 1946.

One man not only survived the blast in Hiroshima, he also survived the blast in Nagasaki as well. Tsutomu Yamaguchi was employed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and was a resident of Nagasaki. On August 6th, 1945, he was sent to Hiroshima to business.

Yamaguchi survived the blast and went home to Nagasaki the next day with wounds. He returned to work in Nagasaki on August 9th, 1945. That morning he said that he was telling his supervisor of a bomb that destroyed the whole town, the supervisor couldn’t believe him. Yamaguchi claims that at the end of this conversation, the A-bomb was detonated over Nagasaki. Yamaguchi was recognized by Japan for surviving in both cities where atomic bombs were dropped, he died of stomach cancer in 2010 at the age of 93.

The long-term effects of the bombings were felt through the landscape, the environment, and the people. Today, radiation levels are considered low and safe. While the towns have been rebuilt, you can still find some traces of the horror from the bombs in August of 1945.