In March 2011, Japan was shaken by a once-in-a-lifetime earthquake that triggered a massive tsunami, resulting in the destruction and subsequent meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. At the time, officials were concerned that nearby residents may have been harmed by low levels of radiation, but now, a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, should help to allay those fears.
After measuring levels of radioactive cesium-137 (a proxy for radiation exposure) in nearly 10,000 residents who lived approximately 14 miles from the nuclear plant, researchers from the University of Tokyo found that, with the exception of one person, none of the study participants had internal radiation levels exceeding common dose-limit recommendations. The voluntary screening program, which included those aged six and older, was conducted between September 2011 and March 2012.
The authors also observed that no cases of acute health problems have been reported thus far. However, in a second study published in the same journal, researchers from the National Defense Medical College in Japan did find that 47 percent of the nearly 1,500 Daiichi workers surveyed reported symptoms of general psychological distress, including post traumatic stress response.
Unlike what many anti-nuclear energy activists may have you believe, the real devastation resulting from the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown was the psychological toll it took on the Japanese people, says ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross. And though the adverse health effects of radiation exposure may often take many years to manifest, this study was unable to detect even one acute health problem, which should put many folks at ease.
For an earlier take on ridiculous claims about the accident, take a look at an op-ed in Forbes by ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom.