Note: This is the second time I have to make a correction to this posting. They were important corrections both times. I must be losing my innate criticality. It’s probably from interacting too much with true believers. There is no need to repeat my mistakes. Instead, I am bolding the sentences subjected to recent corrections.
Periodically, I take the time to ridicule on this blog what I think is excessive, unsupported alarm about the Fukushima unclear reactor meltdown.
I point out that the available hard information does not correspond well with the level of fear the event generated and continues to generate. I am especially impressed with the failure to update the alleged human damage. It’s impressive because by its nature an excess of deaths and their purported radiation cause cannot easily be hidden.
My skepticism is fed by my vivid memory of the Chernobyl nuclear plant meltdown that also gave rise to massive hysteria only to be quietly abandoned as a journalistic topic in a few months.
In the case of Fukushima, the most interesting fact that has gone largely unreported is that today in Feb, 2012, no one has yet died from radiation exposure there. No one, not even any of the brave workers involved in the shutting down of the plant.
I don’t mean to convey the message that radiations are good for you. They are bad in large doses. I am glad for the existence of a 12 mile exclusion zone for humans around the plant. I am also very curious to find out what will happen to the wild fauna in the same area. It turns out the large exclusion zone around Chernobyl is a poacher’s paradise. Of course, I can’t bring myself to believe that radiations are deadly to one kind of animals, us, but not to others.
At any rate, it’s only fair to report that there is a new study of possible American deaths associated to radiation from Fukushima. I would not dismiss the study because it’s published in a good scholarly journal that practices peer-review (not everything but much better than nothing). Of the study’s two authors, one is an MD with good credentials; the other is a “health administrator” who I think is a crank. The study’s credibility is hemmed in by limited data but it’s done quite methodically and uses well what data do exist.
The study blames 14,000 extra deaths on Fukushima radiation. ( I will assume they all occurred in a single year. This assumption tends to overestimates the size of the excess death.))That’s out of a total US annual deaths of about 2,440,000. This amounts to about 5% excess deaths. You decide whether it’s big. (Note: I am fairly sure I had picked up from the study of reference itself a much lower – and false – number of annual US deaths. I can’t affirm it because I have not been able to access again this morning the study itself in the International J. of Public Health.)
Here is a link that will take you to an article that is itself linked to the study published in the International Journal of Health Services:
A Scientific American blog called the study “Voodoo science” but the fact is that it was published in a good, peer-reviewed journal. I am slow to dismiss the work of peer reviewers except in “climate science,” of course where conspiracy rules.
If you are still worried about Japanese radiation and you don’t take the trouble to look at the study, you should lose much credibility in your own eyes, I think.