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Fukushima's Fallout of Fear

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the only-thing-we-have-to-fear-is-fear-itself-and-radiation dept.

Japan 124

gbrumfiel writes "Experts believe that the many thousands who fled from the Fukushima nuclear disaster received very low doses of radiation. But that doesn't mean there won't be health consequences. Nature magazine traveled to Fukushima prefecture and found evidence of an enormous mental strain from the accident. Levels of anxiety and PTSD-like symptoms are high among evacuees. Researchers fear that, in the long run, the mental problems could lead to depression and substance abuse among those who lost their homes. In other words, even if no one develops cancer as a direct result of radiation, the health effects could still be very real."

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This is about information policy (4, Insightful)

rrohbeck (944847) | about a year and a half ago | (#42609397)

If officials would reliably issue accurate statements there would be much less reason to stress out.

Re:This is about information policy (2)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about a year and a half ago | (#42609599)

Or even more reason to be afraid...IIRC part of the problem was they weren't telling people how bad it really was wasn't it?

That said "among those who lost their homes" would seem to include the many thousands of tsunami victims rather than just the ones displaced due to the nuclear issues.

Attributing that to Fukushima isn't a fair metric (and I'm one to widely denounce nuclear power...)

Re:This is about information policy (5, Informative)

iYk6 (1425255) | about a year and a half ago | (#42609911)

Or even more reason to be afraid...IIRC part of the problem was they weren't telling people how bad it really was wasn't it?

That was the problem. By lying, officials were indirectly telling people that the nuclear disaster was so bad that they had to lie. Plus, not knowing how bad it is adds another layer of stress.

Re:This is about information policy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42610071)

Fukushima [wikipedia.org] is the name of the prefecture and city, not just the Fukushima Daiichi reactor. They're talking about fleeing Fukushima in general, not just because of the nuclear incident.

Re:This is about information policy (0)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about a year and a half ago | (#42610391)

Same goes for Chernobyl...what's your point?

Re:This is about information policy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42610513)

Because you're equivocating "Fukushima" with the Fukushima reactor. Nowhere does it attribute fleeing only to the nuclear accident, but 2/3rds of your post implies it does ("rather than just the ones [...] Attributing that to Fukushima isn't a fair metric [...]"). Even the summary doesn't say that.

Re:This is about information policy (2)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about a year and a half ago | (#42610811)

Article TITLE: FUKUSHIMA's Fallout of Fear.

Article title does JUST that. Summary talks specifically about the PTSD for people who lost homes. Which happened significantly outside Fukushima Prefecture (as well as in it)

Further from the summary:

traveled to Fukushima prefecture and found evidence of an enormous mental strain from the accident

Note 'ACCIDENT', not disaster, accident; i.e. the NUCLEAR PLANT.

Re:This is about information policy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42611003)

Yeah well even the summary still doesn't attribute all lost homes to the nuclear accident as you claim. Even arguing that the poor writing quality of the summary implies this, the article does not, so RTFA.

Re:This is about information policy (3, Interesting)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about a year and a half ago | (#42611435)

Yeah well even the summary still doesn't attribute all lost homes to the nuclear accident as you claim.

The Summary says that the effects from the 'accident' (the reactor) include PTSD for people who lost their homes. That's quite clearly attributing tsunami issues since far more people 'lost' homes to the tsunami than to the reactor failure...which isn't a fair metric.

I will happily take the RTFA blame as I didn't, but the summary is still quite clearly 'bad'.

Re:This is about information policy (2)

Mike_EE_U_of_I (1493783) | about a year and a half ago | (#42611711)

Or even more reason to be afraid...IIRC part of the problem was they weren't telling people how bad it really was wasn't it?

That said "among those who lost their homes" would seem to include the many thousands of tsunami victims rather than just the ones displaced due to the nuclear issues.

Attributing that to Fukushima isn't a fair metric (and I'm one to widely denounce nuclear power...)

Sigh...This is Slashdot, where no one actually RTFA, right?

    The article specifically mentions "But uncertainty, isolation and fears about radioactivity’s invisible threat are jeopardizing the mental health of the 210,000 residents who fled from the nuclear disaster."

    This is about the people who were forced out of their homes because of the nuclear disaster, NOT people whose homes were destroyed by the tsunami.

Re:This is about information policy (1)

jrumney (197329) | about a year and a half ago | (#42612953)

That said "among those who lost their homes" would seem to include the many thousands of tsunami victims rather than just the ones displaced due to the nuclear issues.

Those whose homes were destroyed in the tsunami, but are outside the exclusion area can rebuild and find some closure. Those who cannot return to their homes due to the accident, and are still getting conflicting stories from officials must be under extreme mental strain. So there is very good reason to look specifically into these people's plight separately from those suffering due only due to the tsunami.

Re:This is about information policy (4, Interesting)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about a year and a half ago | (#42609825)

Does this lead to suggesting that the government downplay risks since the fear causes more injuries that the actual risk? Should we avoid technologies that scare people even if there is not data to support that fear?

I think the study is probably valid, but I think people need to be very careful on how this information is incorporated into policy.

Re:This is about information policy (3, Informative)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year and a half ago | (#42610417)

Quite the opposite. There's nothing causing more fear than the government found downplaying the danger. As soon as the government is found downplaying, all claims by the government that there's no or only little danger completely lose any credibility they may have had, and people assume the worst.

Re:This is about information policy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42610943)

But did the government really downplay the danger? We all know that they were accused of doing it but if we look at it in retrospect, can we really say that the danger was downplayed?

Yes. Yes they did. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42611291)

They stated that it was damaged but unbroken.

Then damaged but not leaking.

Then leaking but not melting down.

Then only one meltdown.

Then two, but no fallout was leaking out of the containment pool.

Then it was.

Re:Yes. Yes they did. (2)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#42611983)

As an exercise, why don't you try finding official statements that back up your opinion? It's worth noting that a number of these statements would be true, if they were uttered before the event happened. For example, within the first couple of days, a statement that there was no meltdown would be correct.

Re:Yes. Yes they did. (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#42612279)

As an exercise, why don't you try finding official statements that back up your opinion?

As an exercise, why don't you try paying attention next time something like this happens? Those of us who were don't need a citation, because we saw it happen. Japan actually shut down blogs that were telling the truth about the incident "in the national interest". Not that this is special. How much are you hearing about the NJ residents locked up in prison right now for the crime of being in the way of a natural disaster?

Re:Yes. Yes they did. (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#42612465)

Sure, I'll do so. Just like I did for Fukushima.

Re:Yes. Yes they did. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42613629)

Was that really downplaying it, or was that because they didn't know it themselves ?
Because that's the feeling I got from it : the government didn't really know what was going on due to all the chaos.
Which is probably just as bad.

Re:This is about information policy (1)

Mikkeles (698461) | about a year and a half ago | (#42610425)

No. It suggests that government and media accurately state and report on the risks.

LOL; It's hard to write this with a straight face :^)

Re:This is about information policy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42609899)

Or if the media would spend the time and effort to actual understand the reports and produce responsible articles rather than reporting hysteria and utter hokum people would feel much better.

Re:This is about information policy (3, Interesting)

EdZ (755139) | about a year and a half ago | (#42610493)

If officials would reliably issue accurate statements there would be much less reason to stress out.

They did. Even prior to the hydrogen explosions, I was following the IAEA and NISA reports on exactly what was going on, complete with regularly updated radiation levels for various sampling stations.
However, if all you're getting in media reports is fearmongering over THIS NUMBER IS 100 TIMES BIGGER THAN THIS OTHER NUMBER! (and neglecting to mention the units, let alone a helpful comparison to commonly encountered levels of radiation) you'd be forgiven for thinking that the people who know what's going on aren't telling anyone. They are, it's simply that nobody is bothering to listen (and think).

Re:This is about information policy (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | about a year and a half ago | (#42610713)

They did.

Rubbish. They released some meaningless sampling figures, that's all.

They're still not making enough raw data available for independent assessment.

Re:This is about information policy (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | about a year and a half ago | (#42611233)

How often did we hear "There was no core melt"?

Re:This is about information policy (1)

sl149q (1537343) | about a year and a half ago | (#42611199)

How does this compare to the far higher number of people who lost their homes from the tsunami?

It does show that by far and away the biggest danger in a nuclear accident is people panicking because of the over reaction of the authorities, press, blog-o-sphere and twitterverse.

Re:This is about information policy (1)

slick7 (1703596) | about a year and a half ago | (#42611863)

If officials would reliably issue accurate statements there would be much less reason to stress out.

If they told the truth, the opposite might happen. When the ocean around Japan finally dies for good, then the real fear begins.

Re:This is about information policy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42614307)

they should write the accurate statements on the sides of those big pink flying things!

So let me get this? (5, Insightful)

scsirob (246572) | about a year and a half ago | (#42609419)

.. Are they saying that fear mongering will kill more people than the radiation from actual nuclear disaster? Wow.
So that means, on the death toll scale:
1. The actual Tsunami
2. Traffic accidents from people trying to flee
3. Stress related deaths
4. Radiation related deaths

Re:So let me get this? (2)

sjames (1099) | about a year and a half ago | (#42609551)

That's about right.

Re:So let me get this? (4, Insightful)

fredprado (2569351) | about a year and a half ago | (#42609621)

That seems accurate, but I would say that there are still a lot of other items between 3 and 4.

Re:So let me get this? (4, Funny)

Cryacin (657549) | about a year and a half ago | (#42609865)

You forgot #847. Tripping over cat and falling down stairs whilst hurriedly running to basement to get to fallout shelter.

Re:So let me get this? (2)

afgam28 (48611) | about a year and a half ago | (#42613053)

I wonder if pollution wafting over from China is one of them!

It's interesting that when mostly coal-induced smog chokes a city of 20 million people, it's minor news for a day, whereas Fukushima made global headlines for weeks. I don't want to downplay the seriousness of Fukushima, but imagine how many hundreds of thousands more people will develop cancer from the smog.

Re:So let me get this? (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | about a year and a half ago | (#42609679)

Not sure about the laws in Japan but in similar situations in the US wouldn't certain media organizations be liable for "yelling fire in a crowded theater"? Not that I'm in favor of any restriction on free speech but given that we have an established standard where an individual can be held liable for causing panic where people get hurt, shouldn't a news organizations be liable for exaggerated sensationalistic reporting that causes panic and stress related deaths nationwide?

Re:So let me get this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42609759)

No.

Re:So let me get this? (2, Funny)

Cryacin (657549) | about a year and a half ago | (#42609875)

But... if you cut that out, then Fox news would just be the Fox logo.

Re:So let me get this? (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year and a half ago | (#42610505)

Not sure they can even have that.

I run screaming from a TV when I see just the Fox logo.

I'd like that! (1)

Hartree (191324) | about a year and a half ago | (#42611423)

"I run screaming from a TV when I see just the Fox logo."

I wish some of my coworkers were like that. Just hold up an LCD screen with that on it and they leave immediately.

Kind of like a glyph or warding.

Re:So let me get this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42609909)

A news organization doesn't yell fire in a theater. It reports that other people are yelling fire in a theater. If you want to make them liable for reporting on a third party you're going to have to go door-to-door because the media certainly isn't going to report on your attempts to do so.

Re:So let me get this? (1)

Bigby (659157) | about a year and a half ago | (#42610183)

So if I yell, "SOMEONE'S YELLING FIRE IN THE OTHER THEATER" and know the first person is just an idiot, it is ok?

PS: I think yelling FIRE is ok, but if you don't, then the two are not distinguishable.

Re:So let me get this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42610119)

Pretty much. And #1 and #2 can be directly related to over-zealous media coverage.

Re:So let me get this? (1)

Bigby (659157) | about a year and a half ago | (#42610141)

Sounds like Radiation can lead to mass killings in schools. What special interest will win that battle of blame? Anti-nuclear or anti-guns?

And not being allowed to return home (1)

JSBiff (87824) | about a year and a half ago | (#42610359)

In many parts of the evacuated zone, the "contamination" is so small and insignificant that health experts have stated that people could safely return home. However, the government of Japan, instead of trying to educate people about the true risks (or lack thereof) decided they were going to keep the area empty until it could all be "cleaned up" at enormous expense.

So, the public is left with the impression that the government must know it's too dangerous to return, so it must be, right? So, they are depressed that a nuclear accident evicted them from their family home (which may have belonged to the family for generations - in Japan, a home staying in the family for very long periods of time is not uncommon) and they won't be able to return in their lifetime.

The government should just let people return to the very low contamination areas, which ARE SAFE for human habitation, educate them about the risks, and let them get on with their lives.

Re:So let me get this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42611051)

So far we have yet to see a single death related to radiation exposure from the Fukushima incident. You can add a couple of more points to that list.
Masturbation related deaths are probably ranked higher than radiation related deaths.

Started smoking yesterda. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42611461)

No cancer.

Must be safe.

Re:Started smoking yesterda. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42613565)

This.

Radiation effects compare well with tobacco smoke - it can take years to affect you, and the earlier the exposure is in your life the more likely it will have a bigger impact on you. Just because we don't see anything now, or might never see anything, it doesn't mean there won't be health effects.

Here's some rough numbers, if linear-no-threshold is valid:

Pack a day = 2000 mSv (live on Fukushima plant grounds your entire life, and ignored evacuation orders)
Social smoker (pack a week) = 300 mSv (a very high dose for a cleanup worker)
1 Cig a week = 12 mSv (living near or in a low-priority evacuation zone for a year)
Smoked once as a kid = 0.005 mSv (8 day camping trip to the heart of Chernobyl)

Not counting of course that if you smoke a pack a day, you're getting a nice 160 mSv radiation dose delivered straight to your lungs each and every year.

So what you're saying is... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42609445)

Because people have been told "You must freak out! Think of the health risks!", and promptly did freak out... they are now likely to have negative impacts on their health because they freaked out.

Got it.

Re:So what you're saying is... (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about a year and a half ago | (#42609729)

Who was "telling people to freak out" and what level of "fear" do you think is appropriate for a nuclear meltdown?

Got it.

Actually I don't. I really don't get these kind of posts. First I can't see anyone telling them what to do (other than evacuate), second I have found people rarely do what they are told without question.

Do people have all sorts of absurd opinions about major events? - Sure, but yours is just one of them.

Re:So what you're saying is... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42609973)

Who was "telling people to freak out" and what level of "fear" do you think is appropriate for a nuclear meltdown?

I believe around 15 kiloHitchcocks is the accepted level of fear for a nuclear meltdown. To clarify, I think that's equivalent to 674.722 on the Voorhees scale, or approximately 9433.00284 Ringu, a measurement which isn't used all that often.

Re:So what you're saying is... (1)

Abreu (173023) | about a year and a half ago | (#42611189)

Who was "telling people to freak out" and what level of "fear" do you think is appropriate for a nuclear meltdown?

I believe around 15 kiloHitchcocks is the accepted level of fear for a nuclear meltdown. To clarify, I think that's equivalent to 674.722 on the Voorhees scale, or approximately 9433.00284 Ringu, a measurement which isn't used all that often.

Surely you mean 9433 milliringu? Last I checked, one metric Ringu equals 1.6 kiloHitchcocks and around 70 Voorhees.

Chernobyl (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42609451)

According to the BBC Horizon episode "Nuclear Nightmares" only around 50 something peoples death can be directly linked to radiation. I'm sure the psychological damage at Chernobyl was way worse than in Fukushima! The documentary stated that ~200,000 abortions took place as a consequence; How bout them apples! (Oh and the piece starts out with a woman and her daughter, who is healthy and was suppose to be aborted, exploring the remnants of Chernobyl)

As opposed to? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42609539)

As opposed to the people merely flooded out by the tsunami, who are apparently just peachy keen.

Or nobody gives a damn.

What about drowning? (4, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#42609561)

Experts believe that the many thousands who fled from the Fukushima nuclear disaster received very low doses of radiation. But that doesn't mean there won't be health consequences.

Yeah I think having your friends, family, and coworkers drown might stress them a wee bit, even if americans think nothing happened there but a minor nuclear power incident.

Re:What about drowning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42609753)

Yeah I think having your friends, family, and coworkers drown might stress them a wee bit, even if americans think nothing happened there but a minor nuclear power incident.

Pretty sure most Americans know that there was an earthquake, tsunami and massive amounts of death in Japan... Americans are not all idiots like you depict.

Re:What about drowning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42609901)

Us Americans are fully aware of the earthquake, tsunami, and Fukushima incident. It was the only thing on our news stations for at least a week and was covered practically every hour for at least 2 more.

very low doses????? (0, Troll)

gordona (121157) | about a year and a half ago | (#42609691)

I don't think there is a low dose minimum. Sure we have background radiation. So this plus whatever folks received from the leakage from the Fukushima plants is considered low? What BS. Just because the effects might not be seen for 10 or 20 years doesn't mean there aren't any. Of course you can't prove a negative and trying to prove an effect that happens decades later is nearly impossible. Oh wait, we can do an experiment. Lets take a bunch of identical twins, expose one to so-called low level of radiation and the other to no radiation, keep them in an insulated box for several decades and see if the one exposed to the radiation gets sick. Oh you say we can't do that experiment? Of course. But looking at the basic physics and the effects of radioactive molecules on nearby cells, we can with a certain amount of certainty say that radiation in any amount will have not so good effects on the human body. Look up some of Helen Caldicott's work.

Re:very low doses????? (2)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about a year and a half ago | (#42609751)

We do have data. Natural radiation levels vary considerably with location. It is of course difficult to separate effects since lots of other things also vary with location, but there is so much data available that studies should be pretty good

Re:very low doses????? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42609881)

There is no evidence that low doses of radiation are linked to any type of cancer. None. Period. Not only is there no evidence, but it would be mathematically impossible to prove if it were the case. Why? Because 1/3 people die of some type of cancer regardless. There is no way to separate people that die of cancer caused by any number of possible environmental or genetic factors to people exposed to tiny amounts of radiation from man-made sources.

Re:very low doses????? (5, Insightful)

BlackThorne_DK (688564) | about a year and a half ago | (#42610015)

Please do me a favor. Don't go to the Grand Central Station with a geiger counter. Also stay away from Capitol Hill i D.C. and any other granite or marble building.
Also bananas could be scary to look at, and flying to the east coast would also be a no-go.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/reaction/interact/facts.html [pbs.org]

I wouldn't have you ramp up that nuclear fear too high, or you might be a part of statistics.

Radiation is all around us, and the scientist are not even sure it is a bad thing.

Re:very low doses????? (0)

RocketRabbit (830691) | about a year and a half ago | (#42611367)

Are you really implying that low-grade radiation from bananas is the same as inhaling hot particles from a power station that blew up?

Don't be a moron, with statements like yours people correctly assume that shysters are the ones telling them not to be afraid.

You may think you are being cute but your attitude is part of the problem.

Re:very low doses????? (1)

dissy (172727) | about a year and a half ago | (#42612007)

Are you really implying that low-grade radiation from bananas is the same as inhaling hot particles from a power station that blew up?

That is EXACTLY what gordona (121157) stated (not implied, but out right stated as fact)

BlackThorne_DK pointed out there is a difference between bananas and a nuclear plant.

Then here you are, calling BlackThorne_DK a moron for stating that fact.

I have to call into question why you are on one hand claiming those levels of radiation are different, while at the same time calling someone else a moron for stating the same thing, implying those levels of radiation are the same.

What exactly are you trying to imply here? Why are you saying both cases are true, when in fact each is the exact opposite of each other? What kind of game are you playing?

Re:very low doses????? (1)

RocketRabbit (830691) | about a year and a half ago | (#42613351)

BlackThorne_DK said that bananas are scary, clearly trying to imply that gordona was hyping up the fear. Gordona was correct in saying that continued exposure to low-dose radiation is a bad thing, which is what BlackThorne_DK was moronically mocking.

My question is, what are YOU playing here? You appear to have missed the point of both of the parent posts above mine. You weird sicko.

Re:very low doses????? (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#42612445)

Are you really implying that low-grade radiation from bananas is the same as inhaling hot particles from a power station that blew up?

Obviously not, since you aren't inhaling the banana!

Re:very low doses????? (2)

gdshaw (1015745) | about a year and a half ago | (#42610743)

I don't think there is a low dose minimum. Sure we have background radiation. So this plus whatever folks received from the leakage from the Fukushima plants is considered low? What BS. [...] But looking at the basic physics and the effects of radioactive molecules on nearby cells, we can with a certain amount of certainty say that radiation in any amount will have not so good effects on the human body.

If you follow that line of reasoning then you are left with a choice between declaring large parts of the world uninhabitable due to background radiation (and banning air travel), or treating natural and artificial exposure differently even when both are elective.

Japan, as it happens, has a relatively low natural background level under normal circumstances. Doubling it sounds pretty bad but is actually no worse than the average for the USA. Cornwall in England is about five times higher: should we evacuate, or is it OK because it is natural?

There is a strip of land that was downwind of the reactors at the time of the accident with levels that few if any places on Earth would match from natural sources. Avoiding long-term exposure at those levels is sensible; panicking about a fractional increase over the background level is not.

Re:very low doses????? (1)

LordVader717 (888547) | about a year and a half ago | (#42610813)

1) Acute radiation sickness is something that is very well understood in terms of necessary doses.
2) No-one disputes that ionizing radiation is harmful and increases the risk of developing cancer.
3) Background radiation is a perfectly reasonable comparison and there is certainly no reason to believe in some kind of crazy non-linear relation. It doesn't mean we're completely ignorant, just that it's impossible to separate statistical differences from background noise and fluctuations.

BTW I looked up Helen Caldicott and it appears she is an anti-nuclear advocate with no major scientific publications to her name. Not wanting to discredit the woman, but I couldn't find any noteworthy contribution on her part to the biological effects of radiation.

Here's what we know about radiation at low-levels (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42611179)

We do have some idea of low-dose radiation effect based on empirical study. One of the best sources is the BEIR series (BEIR VII). The problem is even at medium levels of exposure, such as first-gen radiation workers and various accidents in the nuclear industry, the background cancer incidence rate is very noisy, and the statistical error bars are enormous for the data we have, even with studies involing tens of thousands of people, and estimates range more than +/-(100%) in the 90% confidence interval.

The best data we have is for leukemia - and that is only because radiation (background and otherwise) seems to account for roughly 50% of cases, much, much more than for other cancers (10% usually).

Here's a summary of what we know and don't know:

1) For low level radiation (100 mSv), it is very plausible that radiation exposure contributes to cancer, but we have not been able to measure an significant difference from 0.

2) There is a good 13 country large scale study that does show significance from zero, but only by using Canadian Chalk River data from the late 1950's/early 1960's, which skews the entire result. Chalk River gew out of Canada's 'Manhattan project' for nuclear power and nuclear medicine, and was very secretive in these years, and has a couple of major meltdowns prior to this data being collected - so it is thought that doses are under-reported. The results from this study can probably be taken as an upper bound - and state essentially that you can multiply your cancer risk by one plus your dose in Sieverts to get an estimate for cancer risk after exposure and your risk of early death by ~(1 + .40*(dose in Sv)), where a factor of 1 means no change.

3) Therefore, as 1 Sv is an upper estimate on your dose if you were to move to the boundary of the Fukushima-Daiichi plant today and live the rest of your life there, the effect of this on your health is likely less than a lifetime of smoking (which increases risk of early death by ~40%). I would advise neither.

4) Using data from Chernobyl and lifespan data analysis on those impacted, as well as various other studies, the best estimate for increased of cancer risk is about (1 + 0.30*(dose in Sv)). If this dose is accumulated over time (like exposure to a power-plant accident), it is common to assume the impact can be divided by either 1.5 or 2 (and in any rate between 1 and 3). It has long been thought and supported by evidence that this should be taken as an upper bound for low doses. In all studies done so far, this risk factor is almost certainly below 2, and almost certainly above 0. At low levels and over long periods, whether the risk factor is 0.01, 0.1, or 0.3, or even 1.0, or how linear or nonlinear the risk is, is anyone's guess. As such, living on the doorstep of Fukushima's plant for the remainder of your life is probably not quite as bad for you as living near a major highway or a major street in an industrial city (~10%-20% increase in early mortality). Still: bad idea, especially as these risks multiply together. If the area near the plant had not been evacuated, there would have been a very noticible Leukemia crisis there over the next half century.

5) Some studies show a negative impact of radiation on cancer at low doses, but this is always within error of being either 0 or even as high as the 13 country study. Not just small studies show this: in the second largest meta-study done on low-level radiation, the best estimate for non-leukemia cancers was negative.

6) Leukemia effects are better understood. It does not seem to follow a linear model, but if it did its effects are roughly a factor of 2 per Sievert. That is, if you are exposed to a one time dose of 1 Sv, your risk of developing Leukemia would triple.

7) There is one industry where high lifetime doses are considered an occupational norm: space travel. Many astronauts expect to received upwards of a 1 Sv (and beyond) lifetime dose, and a single ISS visit could land you with a dose similar to a lifetime living very close to a major nuclear accident. Data from astronauts is a little hard to use as they tend to represent the peak of human health otherwise.

8) Choosing a worst-case risk factor (like 1 or 2) for policy decisions can be a very bad idea, as we've seen from Fukushima and Chernobyl. Evacuation and social effects have been shown to be far worse on health impact and death count than the radiation exposure itself. Using worst-case estimates, especially in an emergency, to set exposure guidelines and evacuation limits greatly magnifies the devastation caused, and the social, economic, and emotional expense of any event.

9) The data does not seem to support a threshold, or if it does that threshold is likely very small (50 mSv). Understanding of the biology and physics involved strongly suggests that while there may be nonlinearity or diminished effect at low levels, it doesn't make sense that the effect would be zero or negative below a threshold.

Re:Here's what we know about radiation at low-leve (1)

lennier (44736) | about a year and a half ago | (#42611773)

Leukemia effects are better understood. It does not seem to follow a linear model, but if it did its effects are roughly a factor of 2 per Sievert. That is, if you are exposed to a one time dose of 1 Sv, your risk of developing Leukemia would triple.

Can you explain this maths for those of us who didn't learn in college that 2=3?

Re:Here's what we know about radiation at low-leve (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42613601)

This is because the factor is a relative risk factor. That means you take your risk and multiply by (1 + factor). This is done because risk factors for cancer seem to stack and you don't have zero chance of cancer just because you have 0 exposure to one of the risks.

A home is a terrible thing to lose (5, Interesting)

fnj (64210) | about a year and a half ago | (#42609721)

Losing your home, let alone all your possessions, is a horrific thing to go through, no matter what the process of loss is: nuclear accident, hurricane, bankruptcy. I believe it is a more devastating loss than the one you have when you reach a certain age and the truth of your own mortality comes into full focus. Losing everything the day your own light goes out forever, there is a sense of loss in the anticipation, but there is no "you" to miss anything afterwards. Losing all your "stuff" on the other hand is the hurt that just keeps hurting.

Lies? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42609745)

Unfortunatly i don't find the link anymore but i have read that the caesium rates in the pacific in are much higher than expected after the the time which has passed after the accident. The only conclusion to this that there is still radioactivity into the environment. Anyone having a link for me to find this article again?

Re:Lies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42609927)

Quite possible. But keep in mind that it is easy to detect extremely small quantities of radioactive material. In all likelihood, they detected an increase from 10 atoms per cubic meter to 15 atoms per cubic meter. True, that's a 50% increase. But we're talking about such a incomprehensibly miniscule quantity as to be totally irrelevant.

price of Tuna (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42610871)

Maybe you're thinking of the price of Tuna fish: I found these two articles on BBC news website, shortly after each other (funny!):

Japan bluefin tuna fetches record $1.7 million [bbc.co.uk]

Bluefin tuna record Fukushima radioactivity [bbc.co.uk]
.
I quote from the second article:

"All the fish examined in the study showed elevated levels of radioactive caesium - the isotopes 134 and 137.
Caesium-137 is present in seawater anyway as a result of the fallout from atomic weapons testing, but the short, two-year half-life of caesium-134 means the contamination can be tied directly to Fukushima. There is no other explanation for the isotope's presence."

Low-dose radiation isn't a big deal (4, Informative)

Robotbeat (461248) | about a year and a half ago | (#42609783)

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2013/01/11/like-weve-been-saying-radiation-is-not-a-big-deal/ [forbes.com]

"A very big report came out last month with very little fanfare. It concluded what we in nuclear science have been saying for decades – radiation doses less than about 10 rem (0.1 Sv) are no big deal. The linear no-threshold dose hypothesis (LNT) does not apply to doses less than 10 rem (0.1 Sv), which is the region encompassing background levels around the world, and is the region of most importance to nuclear energy, most medical procedures and most areas affected by accidents like Fukushima."

Re:Low-dose radiation isn't a big deal (1)

EdZ (755139) | about a year and a half ago | (#42610613)

(0.1 Sv)

HOLY SHIT. That is massively higher than most of the threshold theories (that I've read) posited. You'd have to chow down on an exorbitant amount of Fukishima grown produce (or fish caught nearby the runoff areas) to even come close to approaching 100mSv.

Re:Low-dose radiation isn't a big deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42611127)

0.1Sv for *acute exposure*. For low level radiation, accumulated exposure (like eating food), the dosage is closer to 400mSv/yr and about 4Sv/lifetime.

Keep in mind, that cancer treatments gets you dosage to vital organs next to cancer in range of 20Sv acute exposure.

Now, 1Sv whole body acute exposure gives you radiation poisoning, and 3-4Sv acute exposure is deadly. There is a world of difference between acute whole body, acute localized and low level exposure and health.

PS. Nuclear industry should continue to use LNT model for radiation because they should not be polluting *anything* and spinning it that it is safe. But at the same time, people should not be informed that LNT is reality - it is not. It is a simple, outdated model that does not reflect reality for low level exposure.

Re:Low-dose radiation isn't a big deal (4, Informative)

A beautiful mind (821714) | about a year and a half ago | (#42610647)

I'm going to undo a bunch of mod points with this post, but I wanted to point out that the blog post you cite is flat out wrong.

I'd like to say that I'm for building more nuclear plants of 4th or later generation design and that even with the LNT model, the maximum number of deaths from Fukushima might be on the level of a single bus accident. That said, the blogpost is incredibly misleading. It took me a while to track down the original source that the post claims to cite from UNSCEAR and it's this paragraph:

In general, increases in the incidence of health effects in populations cannot be attributed reliably to chronic exposure to radiation at levels that are typical of the global average background levels of radiation. This is because of the uncertainties associated with the assessment of risks at low doses, the current absence of radiation-specific biomarkers for health effects and the insufficient statistical power of epidemiological studies. Therefore, the Scientific Committee does not recommend multiplying very low doses by large numbers of individuals to estimate numbers of radiation-induced health effects within a population exposed to incremental doses at levels equivalent to or lower than natural background levels;

What they are saying in short is that the statistical uncertainty is strong enough at low levels of radiation doses WRT cancer risk is that it's not possible to tell whether the LNT model is true or not and THEREFOR it shouldn't be used to say "this many people will die from this much low level radiation". They aren't saying that LNT is wrong. They aren't saying that LNT is right. They are saying we don't know.

The quote from the report is from here [unscear.org] . It's from the latest report to the general assembly, page 16.

Re:Low-dose radiation isn't a big deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42610789)

Take a look at the language. Seems like they're saying we don't know whether the LNT applies at low doses, and that we are advised not to draw conclusions from linear arithmetic.

"Uncertainties at low doses are such that UNSCEAR 'does not recommend multiplying low doses by large numbers of individuals to estimate numbers of radiation-induced health effects within a population exposed to incremental doses at levels equivalent to or below natural background levels.'"

"UNSCEAR said that it was not possible to attribute increases in health effects across populations to long term exposure at radiation levels typical of the global average background levels (1-13 mSv per year). 'This is because of the uncertainties associated with the assessment of risks at low doses, the current absence of radiation specific biomarkers for health effects and the insufficient statistial power of epidemiological studies.'"

Re:Low-dose radiation isn't a big deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42612873)

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2013/01/11/like-weve-been-saying-radiation-is-not-a-big-deal/ [forbes.com]

"A very big report came out last month with very little fanfare. It concluded what we in nuclear science have been saying for decades – radiation doses less than about 10 rem (0.1 Sv) are no big deal. The linear no-threshold dose hypothesis (LNT) does not apply to doses less than 10 rem (0.1 Sv), which is the region encompassing background levels around the world, and is the region of most importance to nuclear energy, most medical procedures and most areas affected by accidents like Fukushima."

Which goes against what the peer reviewed science says. When you provide references you may have credibility. Yes, later I will

-mrkaos

"...the health effects could still be very real." (1)

John Hasler (414242) | about a year and a half ago | (#42609795)

Effects not of nuclear power, but of panicky "abundance of caution" overreactions by authorities and news media to _any_ perceived threat.

Would a multibillion $ industry lie? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42609807)

FFS enough with the nuclear-accidents-are-cool-and-safe propaganda on slashdot.

On the one hand we are expected to believe there are nuclear terrorists with a few grams of cesium-137 pose a deadly threat to our largest cities [dailymail.co.uk]

On the other hand we are expected to believe a nuclear accident where 180TONS of nuclear fuel in three reactors completely melted down, releasing over 5-30kg (15-85TBq) of cesium-137 directly into the atmosphere, 10 times as much other volatile isotopes, (in addition to even greater ongoing releases into the ocean) will have no significant health effects at a population level.

Read the works of the late Alice Stewart at Oxford University or Ernest Sternglass. All the other pro-nuclear academics are corrupted gits.

The main thing we have to fear is fear itself. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42609915)

It may well be that the physical health effects of the plant problems were only 0.1% of those of the wave. Yet what is it that people choose remember? Our fears cause us to continue to chronically delay replacement of fossil fuels with nuclear. Fossil fuel air pollution kills 2,000,000 people every year. The impending climate crisis could cause a fatality rate 100 times higher than that.

just throwing this out there (1)

bitt3n (941736) | about a year and a half ago | (#42609997)

is there some sort of accident that could reverse this depression? like perhaps an explosion at a giant nitrous oxide factory?

Re:just throwing this out there (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year and a half ago | (#42610075)

Make people think we might die from a lack of radioactivity. Then they can say: "Thanks to Fukushima, we are safe now." :-)

Obligatory... (0)

fotoguzzi (230256) | about a year and a half ago | (#42610045)

Re:Obligatory... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42610857)

Randall either has a typo, or he used the wrong unit size regarding the Tokyo dose.

He lists the extra dose as 40mSv, but then shows 40uSv in two little green boxes of 20uSv a piece. It was either 40 times the maximum external 3 mile island dose he has in the same chart, or it was 2 chest x-rays.

Re:Obligatory... (1)

lennier (44736) | about a year and a half ago | (#42611989)

I'm an xkcd fan, but this chart is just really, really bad science and abysmal health physics. It pervasively confuses the crucial difference between one-time external exposure ("radiation"), and ongoing internal exposure from ingestion of bioaccumulating radioactive isotopes (such as iodine-131, strontium-90, cesium-137). They're completely different exposure mechanisms and you simply can't compare them directly - except to say that eating or breathing in a radioactive particle is orders of magnitude worse than standing next to that particle and absorbing the radiation through the skin. Inverse square law for the win (or lose, in the human's case).

http://www.orcbs.msu.edu/radiation/programs_guidelines/radmanual/16rm_exposure.htm [msu.edu]

Re:Obligatory... (1)

Anarchduke (1551707) | about a year and a half ago | (#42612155)

First off, you sound like and arrogant know-it-all prick. I'm not trying to be insulting, but that's how you are coming across. Second, the bottom of his chart, which does seem to be fairly accurate states

Chart by Randall Munroe, with help from Ellen, Senior Reactor Operator at the Reed Research Reactor, who suggested the idea and provided a lot of the sources. I'm sure I've added in lots of mistakes; ITS FOR GENERAL EDUCATION ONLY. If you're basing radiation safety procedures on an internet PNG image and things go wrong, you have no one to blame but yourself. /block

Cause vs Effect? (1)

joeflies (529536) | about a year and a half ago | (#42610297)

Experts believe that the many thousands who fled from the Fukushima nuclear disaster received very low doses of radiation

It seems to me that one explanation that many thousands received a low doses of radiation is BECAUSE they fled, not in spite of it which is what the summary seems to imply. And being told there is nothing to see here while a nuclear plant is actually going through a meltdown, then suddely told you must evacuate, well that seems like a category for stress. It's not like they could see if they are in danger or not, and they have no way of measuring how much danger they face (from possible exposure), so yeah, that's going to screw with your head.

what the fuck? (0)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year and a half ago | (#42610401)

Seriously? You're going to start blaming Nuclear power for depression? REALLY? Sorry, but as if the anti-nuclear groups weren't already ridiculous, I think they've finally gone full retard.

So why evacuate? (2)

leannet3 (1972080) | about a year and a half ago | (#42610411)

The article comes close to saying the evacuation was a mistake. It looks like far more deaths and suffering will come from the evacuation that the low doses of radiation.

Re:So why evacuate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42613723)

The size of the evacuation was a mistake. See:

http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2012/ee/c2ee22019a

They evacuated a 20 km radius pretty much immediately. Evacuating 5 km radius, and later 10km, and then evaluating impact before move further would have saved lives and reduced harm.

Implications (3, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | about a year and a half ago | (#42610579)

Given that, I wonder how the total financial meltdown courtesy of Golden Sacks and co. complete with people losing their homes, income, and healthcare compares to every reactor in the U.S. suffering a Fukushima style meltdown all at once.

This happened at Chernobyl too. (2)

InterGuru (50986) | about a year and a half ago | (#42611063)

From the IEEE spectrum's article Chernobyl's Stressful After-Effects [ieee.org]

Perhaps most widespread are psychosomatic illnesses--even in not-too-contaminated areas, there has been a large upswing in stress-related physical ailments, notably stomach and autoimmune disorders. In fact, morbidity and mortality due to such disorders may well in the end exceed sicknesses and deaths caused by radiation.

Also see the book Toxic Turmoil (one review here) [bookwormhole.net] for more discussion of the role of stress in disasters.

We should note the Chernobyl's radiation release was an order of magnitude greater than Fukashima's .

The Radiation is Irrelavant (2)

strangeattraction (1058568) | about a year and a half ago | (#42611077)

People lost their homes, loved ones, possessions and jobs. Why anyone would think the power plant issue/evacuation is the main source of their depression is beyond comprehension.

These are extremely real problems (1)

Required Snark (1702878) | about a year and a half ago | (#42611893)

The general tone of the response on Slashdot is "these are just an ignorant bunch of lay people who are being deliberately mislead by evil anti-nuclear Luddite environmentalists." This attitude is condescending and not supported by the facts. It also embodies a strong pro-nuclear bias, which is just as arbitrary as the claimed anti-nuclear bias.

First, there is not enough information about long term low level radiation exposure to know the long term risks. The one other similar example, Chernobyl, is not a good case study. Critical information was (and perhaps still is) being withheld by the authorities. Meaningful exposure profiles are not available. In addition, the population exposed has been so negatively effected by the fall of the Soviet Union that it is difficult to determine what is caused by radiation and what is caused deteriorating environmental conditions. Having a dysfunctional health care system makes it even worse.

Second, there are more potential negative health effects then just cancer. There is some indication that increased radiation exposure leads to higher levels of cardiovascular disease. There are many potential unknown health problems

The radiation is not a uniform low level background. It is characterized by "hot spots" that are significantly more dangerous. Water caries hot material into places like roadside ditches, which is why Chernobyl visitors are told to stay on hard road surfaces and not walk off the road. This is really a problem for children, since that is the kind of thing they are prone to do. Ingesting the higher radiation material would be particularly hazardous for them.

Stress causes negative health effects. For example, being laid off with long term unemployment causes increased illness. Many peoples lives have been profoundly changed for the worse, including dislocation and job loss. This is only made worse by the radiation problem, which adds a huge amount of uncertainty.

The government and the nuclear industry has been lying to the Japanese public for decades about the risks associated with nuclear power plants. They have no credibility, so when they say that the situation is under control no one believes them. More stress.

Compensation for victims has been extremely inadequate and plagued by bureaucratic delay. Tepco is effectively bankrupt, so they and the government have strong incentives to spend as little money as possible. Also paying compensation highlights their failure, which means loosing face. This is not solely a problem in Japan; just look at the British Petroleum lying advertisements minimizing the environmental impact of the Macondo well disaster.

Speaking of bankruptcy, the nationwide economic impact of the tsunami would be bad enough, but the added burden of the Fukushima disaster makes a horrible situation even worse.

Finally, the disaster isn't over yet, it's ongoing. The damaged reactor units are not really secured. Because of the high radiation levels the most dangerous parts of the facilities have not been inspected so the amount of damage is unknown. The next earthquake could unleash radiation orders of magnitude worse that what already happened. The cores require ongoing cooling, and the equipment involved keeps having outages. An earthquake could lead to cooling loss and a full meltdown with atmospheric release of extremely radioactive core material. The spent fuel pools are also vulnerable to this kind of failure, and they are in damaged containment buildings, not reactor vessels. This is another reason for keeping residents away from the site. Safe evacuation might even not be possible in this situation.

Radiation levels in the ocean near the plant has not declined as much as expected. This is almost certainly due to continuing leakage of radioactive water from inside the damaged units.

So the negative health situation of Fukushima victims is caused by real world problems that induce stress and anxiety. Dismissing these issues is both factually wrong and ethically revolting. As is often the case, Slashdot participants are on the wrong side because they exhibit willing blindness to serious problems associated with real world technology.

imagine that (1)

Anarchduke (1551707) | about a year and a half ago | (#42612045)

They are the only country in the world to have nuclear weapons used against them. It only stands to reason they would freak out about radiation.
But you know that's just the obvious answer. Really, they are waiting for Godzilla to show up and level Tokyo.

Re:imagine that (1)

zedrdave (1978512) | about a year and a half ago | (#42613399)

As someone who lived in Japan during the Great Eastern Earthquake, I can assure you that the people freaking out about nuclear death where mainly the rest of the world, not the Japanese.

Japanese were too busy trying to rescue people amidst entire cities swept by the tsunami, to really care about Fukushima anywhere as much as foreign newspapers did. And the most stridently panicky people in the streets of Tokyo were consistently foreigners or people getting their news from foreign media.

Now that the more urgent stuff is taken care of and the damage has been assessed in a somewhat rational fashion, you do indeed see unprecedented popular actions calling for less/no nuclear plants in the country. But that only happened a good year after the accident itself and could hardly be labelled "freaking out".

Poor summary is biased (1)

Crypto Gnome (651401) | about a year and a half ago | (#42612065)

In other words, even if no one develops cancer as a direct result of radiation, the health effects could still be very real

ACTUALLY the article is arguing that the health-effects could be all in peoples mind.

Actually comparitively sane (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42613293)

I was in Japan shortly after the Tsunami, and most people seemed to understand that the radiation would have no impact on their lives for anyone in Tokyo or south of Tokyo, compared to the mild panic say on the west coast of North America. The authorities seemed to have communicated somewhat effectively the risks, at least for those not in the immediate area, and people were far more focused on getting support to tsunami victims than concerned about radiation. As such, the damage due to panic was relatively localized.

I'd hate to see something similar happen in the US - with the culture of fear, panic, and entitlement, people would go nuts and the damage across the entire country could well be hundreds of times larger than any radiation release could cause. This is why the prospect of a dirty bomb is such a scary terrorist scenario - it wouldn't cause much damage itself but people would tear each other apart, avoid anyone exposed due to fear, and permanantly cordon off a large section of urban landscape. Even though if this were to happen it is likely to be home grown, the army will likely go to war with the first country that blinks, and politics will get even more insane. Scary stuff - though completely preventable and self-imposed.

Yay for self-fulfilling prophecies... (1)

zedrdave (1978512) | about a year and a half ago | (#42613353)

Step 1: Run like headless chickens promising a fiery death through radiation burns to anyone living within 1000 miles of Fukushima.

Step 2: Be somewhere else when scientific findings pour in, showing that the risk on the general population, save for some very specific cases (such as workers at the plant who heroically risked their health trying to fix things), pales by comparison with absolutely every other aspect of the catastrophe (starting with thousands of deaths, injuries and destroyed houses, for entirely non-nuclear reasons).

Step 3: Announce yourself vindicated when Step 1 results in a rash of PTSDs and other mental health issues.

Substance abuse? (1)

voltorb (2668983) | about a year and a half ago | (#42613749)

Substance abuse? They surely don't know Japanese people. It's not USA.
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