At least 50 U.S. Marine and Navy service personnel have joined in a lawsuit against the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) for damages caused by radiation-related illnesses that followed a March 2011 operation to help earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan.
The Stars and Stripes report that Petty Officer 3rd Class Daniel Hair and Senior Chief Mike Sebourn are among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which is set to screen more than 150 other military personnel for possible inclusion. The lawsuit alleges TEPCO lied concerning the risk of exposure due to the damaged nuclear plant, in order to bring American relief troops closer to affected areas.
Five months after the operation, Hair, who was in top physical shape, began to experience back pain, sharp hip pains, constant ringing in his ears, memory loss and severe anxiety. X-rays revealed that his spine was arthritic and his hip joint was jagged. Despite a diagnosis of a genetic immune system disease, for which he has no history, doctors told him that radiation could have triggered the symptoms.
Sebourn was reportedly deployed to an air base 200 miles from the plant to test aircraft that had flown through the area while the atmosphere contained heavy radiation. Immediately following, he experienced symptoms consistent with radiation poisoning: headaches, nose bleeds and nausea. Several months later, he developed weakness in his right arm that led to excruciating pain, and then atrophy. He has now lost 70 percent of the strength in the right side of his body.
Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit have allegedly experienced thyroid problems, rectal and gynecological bleeding, or have been diagnosed with leukemia or testicular cancer.
The first hearing will take place in a federal court in San Diego this October, where the plaintiffs will fight motions filed by TEPCO to change the venue and dismiss the case.