Originally published at Digital Journal April 25, 2011

Fukushima schools limit outdoor recess time and city implements a one-hour time limit on playground use due to radiation threat to children. Soil removed from school grounds has no place to go.

Fukushima Prefecture has implemented time limits for outdoor recess at public schools and for the length of time that can be spent at some public parks.

The affected localities are inside a 65 kilometer radius from the Fukushima Daiichi 1 nuclear power plant .

On March 11, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake off the northeast coast of Japan caused a tsunami that struck a wide swath of the Pacific coast of Japan. The 6 nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi 1 nuclear power facility were damaged and since March 11 controlled and uncontrolled releases of radiation into the air and the ocean has occurred.

A 30 kilometer evacuation zone is in place around the nuclear facility and repair work under uncertain conditions is underway.

Radiation limit set for children

On April 19, Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology determined the hourly allowable radiation dose for students attending kindergartens through junior high schools in Fukushima Prefecture.

The Ministry set a limit of 3.8 microsieverts of radiation per hour. The limit is based on the assumption that children are outdoors eight hours per day. By limiting the time outdoors, exposure to the maximum 20 milisieverts per year can be avoided.

The 20 milisieverts per year standard was set by the International Commission on Radiological Protection.

Topsoil removal at schoolyards

Topsoil at 15 public schools and 13 public nursery schools in Fukushima City will be removed due to 3.0 microsieverts per hour radiation contamination. Removal will begin this week. Experts are being consulted about what to do with the contaminated soil.

By scooping off 2 centimeters of topsoil, 90% of radioactive material can be removed.

Leave public park after one hour

Signs at a total of five playgrounds in 4 cities in Fukushima Prefecture (Fukushima City, Koriyama, Nihonmatsu and Motomiya) inform visitors that they can stay only one hour per day. Users are also warned against playing in the sandbox.

Some areas of dirt and sand at the parks have been covered with plastic sheeting in order to prevent radioactive dust from becoming airborne.

The prefectural government advises playground users to wash their hands and faces after using the areas, and to gargle.

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