The death of Masao Yoshida from esophageal cancer was announced by the company he helmed during the March 2011 disaster, Tokyo Electric Power.
Mr. Yoshida was the chief engineer and manager at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant when the earthquake and tsunami overwhelmed the plants defenses, with the resulting meltdown releasing large quantities of radioactive material into the nearby environment and adjacent sea. Approximately 100,000 people were evacuated from the nearby homes, however the catastrophe s victims were entirely from the tidal wave s impact: despite the fears of radiation-induced sickness and death, no one was actually harmed, as far as recent surveys attest, from the released radiation.
Given the deep-seated loathing and fear of nuclear energy among some segments of our population, and the widespread misinformation about the extent of the nuclear contamination subsequent to the 2011 disaster, it is certain that some groups will try to make a spurious connection between that and Mr. Yoshida s cancer. The facts are these: his cancer was diagnosed in November 2011, after a lengthy period during which he was not well a mere 8 months after the meltdown. No exposure can produce a cancer in such a short interval; moreover, esophageal cancer is not known to be related to radiation exposure.
What then may have caused Mr.Yoshida s fatal disease? No one can say with any certainty, but the known risk factors for cancer of the esophagus include chronic smoking and over-indulgence in alcohol, as well as chronic inflammation as in Barrett s esophagus. We here at ACSH have no knowledge of his habits in this regard, but Japanese men have one of the world s highest smoking rates, so it is highly likely that Mr. Yoshida was a smoker.
Let us hope that interest groups fixated on phantasmagoric threats of radiation and nuclear energy will not exploit this tragic death, but we are not overly optimistic on that subject.