As Chernobyl and Fukushima show, fear of radiation is more dangerous than radiation itself

Fear of radiation (nuclear) is deeply rooted in the public psyche. For historical, partly and partly psychological reasons, we simply assume that any exposure to ionizing radiation is dangerous.

The dose does not matter. The nature of the radioactive material does not matter. The route of exposure – dermal, by inhalation, ingestion – does not matter. Radiation hazard = = Fear. Period.

The truth, however, is that the health risk posed by ionizing radiation is not as great as expected. In contrast, excessive fear of radiation – our radio phobia – does more harm to public health than the ionizing radiation itself.

All this we know of some of the most fearsome events in the history of the modern world: the atomic bombs of Japan and the nuclear accident in Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Much of what we understand the actual biological risk of ionizing radiation is based on the joint research program between Japan and the United States called Life Span Study of survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, now 70 years old.

In 10 km of the explosion, there were 86,600 survivors – known in Japan as hibakusha – and were followed and compared to 20,000 exposed Japanese.

Only 563 of these survivors of the atomic bomb have died prematurely from cancer caused by radiation, increasing mortality by less than 1%.

While thousands of hibakusha received extremely high doses, many were exposed to moderate or low doses, although much higher than those received by victims of nuclear accidents in Chernobyl or Fukushima.

At these moderate or low doses, the Lifetime study found that ionizing radiation does not do rates plagued with any disease associated with radiation above normal levels in unexposed populations.

In other words, we can not be sure that these lower doses cause harm, but if they do, they do not cause much.

And regardless of dose, the Span Life Study found no evidence that nuclear radiation causes multigenerational genetic damage. None have been detected in children of the hibakusha.

Based on these findings, the International Atomic Energy Agency estimates that the death toll from the Chernobyl nuclear accident would reach 4,000, or two-thirds of 1% of the 600,000 Chernobyl victims who received doses high enough to cause concern.

For Fukushima, who published much less radioactive than Chernobyl, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation predicted that “no significant increased incidence of adverse effects on the health of members of the public or their offspring is expected Exposed “.

The two nuclear accidents have shown that the fear of radiation causes more damage to health than the radiation itself.

Anxious for radiation therapy, but ignored (or perhaps unconscious) than the Study Time of Life learned, 154 000 people in the area around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant were evacuated in a hurry.

The Japan Times reported that the evacuation was in such a hurry that it had killed 1656 people, 90% were over 65 years. The earthquake and tsunami only 1,607 died in this region.