Friday, March 9, 2012

NPR: "Trauma, Not Radiation, Is Key Concern In Japan"

The US's NPR (National Public Radio, though they go by NPR these days) has an article written by Richard Harris on the one-year anniversary of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident.

The most interesting information comes from Dr. John Boice, a cancer epidemiologist at Vanderbilt University who says in the NPR piece:

To be sure, "there was radiation released. It was about a tenth of what was released from Chernobyl," he says. "But most of the releases were blown off to the Pacific Ocean. The winds were blowing to the sea and not to populated areas."

One big cloud did blow inland, up toward the northwest. But most of the 170,000 residents in the area were quickly evacuated. Boice says that helped limit dangerous doses. So did other quick actions by the Japanese government.

"They prohibited the release of any food that had had increased levels of radiation in them," he says. "So there wasn't milk out there in the public supply. There wasn't any fish that had levels that were increased."

Did you know that?

From NPR (Richard Harris, 3/9/2012):

Trauma, Not Radiation, Is Key Concern In Japan

by Richard Harris

March 9, 2012

One year ago this Sunday, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake off Japan triggered a tsunami that killed 20,000 people. It also triggered multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station, one of the worst nuclear disasters in history.

But health effects from radiation turn out to be minor compared with the other issues the people of Fukushima prefecture now face.

That may come as a surprise. We all watched frightening TV images, and clouds of radioactive steam and gas did erupt from the plant. That material did sometimes move over the countryside and into populated areas, so it looked like a horrible disaster.

But in the case of radiation, the dose matters. It's true, there is no bright line that separates a safe dose of radiation from a dangerous dose, but at some point, a dose is so small that any potential health risk is simply too small to measure.

"Surprisingly, there have been no health effects that have been demonstrated among the Japanese people or among the workers," says John Boice, a cancer epidemiologist at Vanderbilt University.

To be sure, "there was radiation released. It was about a tenth of what was released from Chernobyl," he says. "But most of the releases were blown off to the Pacific Ocean. The winds were blowing to the sea and not to populated areas."

One big cloud did blow inland, up toward the northwest. But most of the 170,000 residents in the area were quickly evacuated. Boice says that helped limit dangerous doses. So did other quick actions by the Japanese government.

"They prohibited the release of any food that had had increased levels of radiation in them," he says. "So there wasn't milk out there in the public supply. There wasn't any fish that had levels that were increased."

And that's a huge difference from the aftermath of Chernobyl. In 1986, the Soviets let people eat contaminated food and drink contaminated milk, activity that led to many cancers. In Japan, Boice says the only people with significantly elevated doses are the nuclear workers. And as a result, a few workers are at slightly higher risk for cancer.

Psychological Health Effects

Robert Gale, a bone-marrow-transplant expert who treated workers after Chernobyl, spent half of the past year in Japan talking to some of the thousands of workers called in for the nuclear cleanup.

"Most of these workers are not nuclear workers," Gale says. "They are common workers that [for example] were upholstering couches in Osaka and now they're cleaning up a nuclear reactor."

They work until they reach the occupational radiation limit of 50 millisieverts in a year, then they go home. But they don't know what their risk really entails. So Gale has been meeting with them to explain.

"Usually, when they're discussing these issues we're in an izakaya, a sort of Japanese bar," he says. "While they're discussing their concerns about radiation with me, they can go through a pack of cigarettes. If you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day for a year, you're getting an internal radiation dose of about 30 millisieverts."

That's more than half the dose they got through occupational exposure. But cigarette smoke is also filled with cancer-causing chemicals, so smoking is a far bigger risk to their health.

But the issue isn't just physical health — it's the worries that come with radiation. Evelyn Bromet, a psychiatry researcher at SUNY Stony Brook, says this anxiety sets in after big nuclear accidents.

"The central public health issue often becomes health-related anxiety, concerns about the future, about the future health of the children," Bromet says. "So that's what happened in Japan, just as it happened after Chernobyl and after Three Mile Island."

But it's worse in Japan because the public is also suffering from the trauma of the tsunami, of evacuation and of losing livelihoods, because people are reluctant to buy produce from Fukushima. And Bromet says physicians in Japan don't generally treat mental health issues.

"So I think it's not going to be very easy to set up intervention programs in the same way it would in countries like Holland, for example, where there's much more integrated mental and physical health care."

Bromet says it will be essential to deal with both physical health and mental health in the years to come.

16 comments:

a female Faust said...

echoes NRC's Jaczko, whose Press Club speech should have landed him Best Supporting Actor 2011: "Fukushima Had No 'Immediate Health Impacts;' 'Radiation Exposures ... Minimized.'

but seriously, a comment upon this would be welcome. i see the temptation to let it speak for itself, but there are plausible situations in which this would in fact do a disservice, one that ultimately could be extrapolated to threaten health.

if i understand you correctly. if not, all the more reason to append a word or two. this is more of a request than a criticism, really, and i hope not the smallest offense will be the effect...

Darth3/11 said...

The government prohibited the sale of any food with increased radiation counts? What planet does NPR Harris live on? Does he have no informants living in Japan? And, anyone saying no health problems have been detected is showing their willful ignorance. Exposure does not result in instance problems or death (unless a megadose occurs)...takes some time to develop cancers and other problems. Go ahead, buy those Fukushima mushrooms. Better run a geiger counter over them, first.

As the anniversary is basically upon us, I expect a ton of coverage basically saying, "Nothing to see here, move along". I do not agree with such wishful thinking.

Anonymous said...

Shame on them all!
The biggest trauma is given by seeing the way the government deals with the problem of contamination and radioactivity and the way MSM cover the topic.
Shame on them for not revealing the truth, shame on all of us letting innocent children still there taking so many radiations. May God or who on his behalf forgive our powerlessness before human greedy and selfishness.

Hélios said...

Welcome to karma...

Anonymous said...

Ah....Richard Harris, this is the same brilliant nuclear genius who, on March 22, 2011, is quoted by NPR as saying:

"Scientists examining the types of radioactive substances that have spewed from Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant conclude that it's overwhelmingly material that will turn harmless in the next few months."

How many people have suffered because of lies like this?

Anonymous said...

Oh christ. talk about dribble. I thought Google SPAM filter was finally working...

Anonymous said...

Go share your profound knowledge at Fukushima Diary or Enenews. Unlike here, you have to register or the comments are moderated. Good luck if their admins admit you. Please go.

grammar nazi said...

It's "drivel" not "dribble". Drivel is nonsense words while dribble is streaming saliva. Hmm, on second thought...okay maybe dribble it is.

Majia's Blog said...

a female Faust said...

"Fukushima Had No 'Immediate Health Impacts;' 'Radiation Exposures ... Minimized.' But seriously, a comment upon this would be welcome. i see the temptation to let it speak for itself,

Me here:

Have your followed this disaster at all?

30% of children screened in Fukushima prefecture had nodules on their thyroids.

Radiation exposure data for children simply disappeared.

Radioxenon levels in the Pacific Northwest of the US were 40,000X normal background

Wake Up LADY

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

@Majia, she's quoting Jacko. And she's been a reader of this blog a long time.

Chibaguy said...

One big cloud that went northwest, everyone evacuated immediately and contamination isolated?

How about: Kanto and Tohoku contaminated above Chernobyl evac limits and no one is able to evacuate. The kids of Fumushima are now a part of the largest radiation clinical trial the world has ever seen. In a couple more years the contamination will be all over Japan due to the spreading the pain policy of the government. No one knows where three coriums are.

Majia's Blog said...

My bad

I may be becoming reactive due to the constant chant that the psychological effects of nuclear disasters far outweigh the physical effects of radiation upon the body

I understood her as saying that YOU should comment--that is, provide evidence--as to why the story is false

That is, I thought she was asking YOU to prove somehow that the psychological stress was LESS than the physical effects of radiation exposure upon bodies exposed to Fukushima falllout.

Anonymous said...

I always love the "If you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day for a year, you're getting an internal radiation dose of about 30 millisieverts" BS to ridicule the fear of radiation from a nuclear accident.

If someone smokes, it's HIS/HER choice to do so. To suggest -as the above statement does in my opinion- it's ok or comparatively harmless for this person to be exposed to radiation from an NPP accident or that person has "no right" to be afraid or object to such exposure is absolute despicable.

I'm just waiting for doctors to say they don't treat smokers for minor illnesses anymore since they're obviously killing themselves with cigarettes anyway.

vastman said...

NPR has devolved, from the Bush criminal years, into National corPorate Radio... Nothing more than subtle mouthpieces for the 1% these days...

Anonymous said...

NPR used to be known among progressives as National Petroleum Radio since they were (are?) sponsored heavily by oil companies and their coverage reflected that.

I guess it's time they changed their name to "NNR."

Anonymous said...

@vastman

Yes, I don't recall the details but during the Bush years one of the most important positions at NPR/CPB was given to a fair-right ideologue, basically changing them editorially from corporate-friendly to corporate mouthpiece.

It makes me wonder which is the bigger challenge: the mountains of radioactive materials/waste or the mountains of propaganda/BS being shoveled out daily.

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