Friday, April 8, 2011

Worrying themselves to death...

Fukushima: the view from above...

Far be it for me to minimize the nuclear catastrophe in Japan.

The post-tsunami damages/meltdowns/leaks at the Fukushima nuclear power facilities are, obviously, one of the very worst nuclear disasters in history. Period.

The damage to the immediate area will likely persist for years - maybe decades - the people of the region are likely to experience short- and long-term problems, and the entire Japanese economy is likely to be impacted for some time.

The troubled Fukushima nuclear facility...

What is highly unlikely, however, is that people outside of the "exclusion zone" - and certainly those living as far away as the United States - have anything to worry about when it comes to the plant's leaking radiation.

In a piece cited by Overcoming Bias, "MIT’s Josef Oehmen explains, there is very little chance that many will suffer much radiation harm: 'There was and will not be any significant release of radioactivity from the damaged Japanese reactors. By significant I mean a level of radiation of more than what you would receive on – say – a long distance flight, or drinking a glass of beer that comes from certain areas with high levels of natural background radiation."

Overcoming Bias points out that experts say that while, "...radiation escaping from a nuclear power plant catastrophe can increase the risk of many cancers and other health problems, stress, anxiety and fear ended up in many ways being much greater long-term threats to health and well-being after Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and other nuclear accidents."

In a Washington Post story entitled, "Fear is potent risk of Japanese nuclear crisis," Fred Mettler, a University of New Mexico professor emeritus and one of the world’s leading authorities on radiation, who studied Chernobyl for the World Health Organization, states: “The psychological effects were the biggest health effects of all — by far. In the end, that’s really what affected the most people.”

The story goes on to say that, "Fears of contamination and anxiety about the health of those exposed and their children led to significantly elevated rates of suicidal thinking and anxiety disorders, and rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression about doubled, Mettler and others said."

But won't that radiation turn us all into mutated freaks?!?!?

“In the movies and in comic books, people getting exposed to radiation turn into monsters,” said John Boice Jr., a radiation expert at the International Epidemiology Unit in Rockville, MD.

In fact, radiation is a far less potent carcinogen than other toxic substances. Studies of more than 80,000 survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts have found that about 9,000 people subsequently died of some form of cancer. But only about 500 of those cases could be attributed to the radiation exposure the people experienced.

“The average amount of radiation that victims in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were exposed to would increase the risk of dying from lung cancer by about 40 percent,” Boice said. Smoking a pack of cigarettes a day increases the risk of dying of lung cancer by about 400 percent.

“Radiation is a universal carcinogen, but it’s a very weak carcinogen compared to other carcinogens,” Boice said. “Even when you are exposed, it’s very unlikely you will get an adverse effect. But fear of radiation is very strong.”

Who knew worrying could be more deadly?

You know what radiation causes? Godzilla movies...

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