(NaturalNews) Sailors aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, one of the nation's most modern aircraft carriers, were the first to respond to the stricken nuclear power station at Fukushima, Japan, in March 2011, following a devastating earthquake and tsunami which struck the site and heavily damaged three of the plant's six nuclear reactors.
Now, months and years later, an increasing number of them are becoming sick and disabled with conditions that they are blaming on above-average exposures to radiation leaking from the reactors hit hardest by the massive wave. As reported by the International Business Times (IBT):
An alarming number of US Navy sailors have now started coming out to publicly air their grievances against what happened to their health as they conducted their jobs while in Japan waters three years ago.
Close to 100 U.S. sailors with ailments such as thyroid cancer, brain tumors and leukemia have filed a lawsuit against the Tokyo Electric Power Company. But its progress has been stalled because many more sailors want to join into the lawsuit, according to Bay area lawyer Charles Bonner.
The number of affected sailors continues to grow. According to a report by EcoWatch, an organization that has been monitoring the after-effects of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, Arnie Gunderson, a nuclear expert with Fairewinds Energy Education, says, "The health effects of the Reagan crew are real. There's no denying that these brave men and women were exposed to high levels of radiation."
He went on to say this about radiation sickness: "At high levels you wind up with hair loss, vomiting, diarrhea - all of those experiences were experienced by the sailors on the USS Reagan."
Did TEPCO withhold information about the release of radioactivity?
Bonner says that, because of the continuous influx of sailors who are experiencing symptoms indicative of radiation poisoning, it has become necessary to delay filing the suit until early next month. He says sailors from other U.S. warships are also joining.
According to the suit - which Gunderson says sailors may not have standing to file, simply because they were performing a military duty on behalf of the U.S. - TEPCO, the crippled plant's operator, is alleged to have purposely withheld information regarding the release of a radioactive plume. It says that U.S. sailors could have had a chance to avoid it and that their ships could have escaped the deadly cloud had the Japanese power company warned higher authorities.
One female sailor, Lindsay Cooper, is claiming that she now has a damaged thyroid, a disrupted menstrual cycle and highly fluctuating body weight, among other symptoms. "It's ruined me," she told IBT.
A naval officer from Maryland, Steve Simmons - once very active in sports and fitness - told the local CBS affiliate, WUSA, that he has lost use of both of his legs (he is now in a wheelchair). Also, he says he experiences fevers and has swelling in his lymph nodes because of his exposure.
"You're starting to run fevers, your lymph nodes start swelling, you're having night sweats, you're getting spastic and you're losing sensation in your legs, and you can't feel your legs when you're getting second-degree burns on them, and how do you explain those things?" said Simmons, adding that his symptoms began about eight months after returning to the U.S. from Japan.
Ship so radioactive it couldn't dock in many ports
Sailors involved in the suit say they were drenched in radioactive fallout on the very first day at Fukushima. They say they noticed a cloud of air with a metallic taste wash over the aircraft carrier.
More from IBT:
They thought it was a snow storm. Responding U.S. Navy sailors disregarded it and continued working and helping and rescuing. Some worked 18-hour shifts in the open air throughout a four-day mission, re-fueling and repairing helicopters, loading them with vital supplies and much more. Some even jumped into the ocean just offshore to pull victims to safety.
Worse, all drank and bathed in waters that although had been desalinated, were surely greatly contaminated by radioactive fallout and runoff.
They described the cloud as warm, which is odd, given that it also reminded them of "radioactive snow," which is something they joked about. However, what is no joke is that, when the USS Ronald Reagan left Fukushima, it was found to be so radioactive that Japanese, South Korean and Guamanian ports refused to allow it entry.