Good News: Fukushima Radiation Should Not Cause a Rise in Cancer Cases

By Veronique Greenwood | May 25, 2012 11:47 am


Two new reports on radiation doses received by workers and civilians near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown last year indicate that there will be very little, if any, increase in their cancer risk.

The reports, put together by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) and the World Health Organization and slated to be presented in Vienna this week, draw on all the available data about the crisis and include detailed information about exposure, according to Nature News, which has the exclusive:

[UNSCEAR] scoured anonymized medical data for 20,115 workers and contractors employed by the Tokyo Electric Power Company, which runs the plant. It found that 146 employees and 21 contractors received a dose of more than 100 millisieverts (mSv), the level at which there is an acknowledged slight increase in cancer risk. Six workers received more than the 250 mSv allowed by Japanese law for front-line emergency workers, and two operators in the control rooms for reactor units 3 and 4 received doses above 600 mSv, because they had not taken potassium iodide tablets to help prevent their bodies from absorbing radio­active iodine-131. So far, neither operator seems to have suffered ill effects as a result of their exposure.

The levels of exposure for civilians was much, much smaller, and neither employees nor civilians are expected to have statistically higher rates of cancer. But not everyone Nature News spoke to was totally at ease with the reports; after the way the Japanese government and energy utilities handled the disaster, many people are extremely distrustful of official estimates claiming that there is little risk:

Tatsuhiko Kodama, head of the radioisotope centre at the University of Tokyo and an outspoken critic of the government, questions the reports’ value. “I think international organizations should stop making hasty reports based on very short visits to Japan that don’t allow them to see what is happening locally,” he says.

In fact, post-traumatic stress left by the disaster may be more of a health worry than cancer. Evelyn Bromet, a psychiatric epidemiologist at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, told Nature that she was shocked by what she’d learn of survivors’ mental states.

“I’ve never seen PTSD questionnaires like this,” she says of a survey being conducted by Fukushima Medical University. People are “utterly fearful and deeply angry. There’s nobody that they trust any more for information.”

Get the full story at Nature News.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • Richardw

    Should not is an interesting statement.

    The stats do not support this assertion. Should cause a few is the more likely outcome.

    As has been pointed out now the radioactive release data has doubled since the UNSCEAR report was released. So what of their conclusions?

    Also note that they declared no visible signs of radioactive effects on the workers at Fukushima. This does not make sense as there was a well known incident of radiation burns to workers in the early days who were standing in contaminated water with short boots on.

    UNSCEAR is answerable to the IAEA charter to promote nuclear power.

    IAEA answers to the security council as it is a military function.

    WHO does not get to comment in any way, any statement going out as WHO is actually UNSCEAR promoting nuclear power for military and security reasons.

  • Neil


  • lizm

    “by the Tokyo Electric Power Company”

    How does this qualify as journalism….much less science journalism?

  • Jason

    Yeps.. and just like the filmies said in the 70’s.. DDT is good for everybody! Let’s bath the kiddies!

  • Randall Thompson

    Wow, it must be a struggle to disinform so willfully and still go to bed without guilt. Shame on you.

  • Adam

    The endorsement of these two reports by Discover distresses me very much. I can’t help distrusting UNSCEAR, WHO and Discover now. Why is it that the only reliable reporting is done underground these days. The world is in the grips of Big Business and there’s nothing we can do about it, it seems.

  • Jay Fox

    All this while someone else is reporting elevated levels of radiation in Pacific Tuna.

    Time travel must certainly be possible, and George Orwell used it. Apparently he got the dates mixed up, since this isn’t 1984, but he did get a lot right.

    The Ministry of Truth disseminates more (un)truth!

  • J Young

    If you think this is bad – have a look at the nuke industry troll comments following the article on the Nature site.

  • Thea

    Hey! Spend the $$$ to help the people who were treated to nuclear fallout instead of publishing crappy “news” releases! And, I live on the coast of California–when do I get my PTSD questionnaire?

    Discover Mag: you need to do some due diligence before you headline articles aimed at those who UNSCEAR, WHO, etc think are the stupid masses.

  • Zachary

    Would any of you believed any source that concluded there was not enough exposure to spike cancer rates?

  • anonomie

    For the true story of what’s going on, I use Arnie Gunderson’s He tells it like it is and it’s far uglier than our “leaders” are letting on, all to protect us, of course.

  • dave


  • Tomato Fettuccini

    Apparently, no one at Discover even did the slightest bit of research about this.

    If you go to the EPA’s webpage regarding exposure pathways of radiation and it’s effects, it says clearly that inhaled and ingested “Alpha and beta particles can transfer large amounts of energy to surrounding tissue, damaging DNA or other cellular material. This damage can eventually lead to cancer or other diseases and mutations.”

    Obviously the writers and editor of Discover believe that we’re all fools and idiots and that no one remembers the horrors of the aftermath of Chernobyl. The Fukushima disaster is orders of magnitude worse.

    Go back to bed, America. Your government is in control again. Here, here’s American Gladiator. Shut up.

    Nice job, Discover. I’m canceling my subscription because of your lack of journalistic and scientific integrity.

  • Tomato Fettuccini

    Here is a link an article from Natural News which speaks about Oregon Senator Ron Wyden’s visit to the area. Just one of Fukushima’s over 1565 fuel rods has the potential to kill nearly 3 billion people if it explodes.

    Small wonder that “many people are extremely distrustful extremely distrustful of official estimates claiming that there is little risk”.

    And rather than disseminating truth about the situation, Discover Magazine adds its voice to assist in the cover-up.

    Shame on all of you.

  • Zachary

    I read that article. The 2.89 billion deaths would be the result of distributing the minimum lethal dosage perfectly efficiently to 2.89 billion people. It is an alarmist and wildly misleading statement.

  • Tomato Fettuccini

    Did you read the entire article? That was contingent on only 1 of the 1565 control rods going nova. Just one.

    Consider this: detection of radioactive isotopes is spiking on the west coast of North America. Specifically in the Baja Peninsula, California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. A large amount of North America’s produce currently comes from that region, and radioactive fallout from Fukushima has been found in North America’s food chain, particularly in dairy, seafood and produce. I live in Ontario and a good portion of the produce I buy is from both California and Canada’s west coast and I wager that a good deal of what you eat comes from that region as well.

    I would call that I fairly effective and efficient distrubution system. And the fact of the matter is that it doesn’t have to be particularly efficient because at the genetic level you don’t really need a lot of radioactive damage in order for it to wreak havoc on the host organism.

    Now also consider the sentaor’s assessment that the situation is worse than the Japanese government is letting on (Which in all likelyhood is the case; if you were the Japanese Prime Minister, would you be telling the world the honest truth of what the sate of it really is? I don’t think so.). Whatever the situation really is, his statement that even “a very small earthquake could level the building” is likely bang on the money.

    What, praytell, is misleading about it? And to be honest, wouldn’t you suppose that a large-scale nuclear disaster is something about which we are to be alarmed?

  • Zachary

    I read the whole article. Ron Wyden has a B.A. and a J.D. Tell me which one of those degrees lends him the expertise to evaluate structural integrity, the risk of radiation, or seismological risk assessment.

    Can you provide a link to a source citing dangerous levels of radiation reaching the west coast of North America?


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