Fukushima Meltdown Unlikely to Lead to Large Number of Cancers via Scientific American


In a major study, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) said it did not expect “significant changes” in future cancer rates that could be attributed to radiation exposure from the reactor meltdowns.

The amounts of radioactive substances such as iodine-131 released after the 2011 accident were much lower than after Chernobyl, and Japanese authorities also took action to protect people living near the stricken plant, including evacuations.

However, some children – estimated at fewer than 1,000 – might have received doses that could affect the risk of developing thyroid cancer later in life, UNSCEAR said, making clear that the probability of that happening was still low.

UNSCEAR chair Carl-Magnus Larsson said there was a theoretically increased risk among the most exposed children as regards to this type of cancer, which is a rare disease among the young.


UNSCEAR said about 35,000 children aged up to five lived in districts where the average absorbed dose to the thyroid was between 45 and 55 milliGrays (mGy), a radiation measurement.

But doses varied considerably among individuals, from about two to three times higher or lower than the average.

UNSCEAR “considered that fewer than a thousand children might have received absorbed doses to the thyroid that exceeded 100 mGy and ranged up to about 150 mGy,” the report said.

“The risk of thyroid cancer for this group could be expected to be increased,” it said.

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