By Ian Fairlie
Mental health consequences
It is necessary to include the mental health consequences of radiation exposures and evacuations. For example, Becky Martin has stated her PhD research at Southampton University in the UK shows that “the most significant impacts of radiation emergencies are often in our minds.”
t is likely that these fears, anxieties, and stresses will act to magnify the effects of evacuations, resulting in even more old people dying or people committing suicide.
Such considerations should not be taken as arguments against evacuations, however. They are an important, life-saving strategy. But, as argued by Becky Martin,
“We need to provide greatly improved social support following resettlement and extensive long-term psychological care to all radiation emergency survivors, to improve their health outcomes and preserve their futures.”
Untoward pregnancy outcomes
Dr Alfred Körblein from Nuremburg in Germany recently noticed and reported on a 15% drop (statistically speaking, highly significant) in the numbers of live births in Fukushima Prefecture in December 2011, nine months after the accident.
This might point to higher rates of early spontaneous abortions. He also observed a (statistically significant) 20% increase in the infant mortality rate in 2012, relative to the long-term trend in Fukushima Prefecture plus six surrounding prefectures, which he attributes to the consumption of radioactive food:
“The fact that infant mortality peaks in May 2012, more than one year after the Fukushima accident, suggests that the increase is an effect of internal rather than external radiation exposure.
“In Germany [after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster] perinatal mortality peaks followed peaks of cesium burden in pregnant women with a time-lag of seven months. May 2012 minus seven months is October 2011, the end of the harvesting season. Thus, consumption of contaminated foodstuff during autumn 2011 could be an explanation for the excess of infant mortality in the Fukushima region in 2012.”
Cancer and other late effects from radioactive fallout
The Japanese Government, its advisors, and most radiation scientists in Japan (with some honourable exceptions) minimise the risks of radiation. The official widely-observed policy is that small amounts of radiation are harmless: scientifically speaking this is untenable.
For example, the Japanese Government is attempting to increase the public limit for radiation in Japan from 1 mSv to 20 mSv per year. Its scientists are trying to force the ICRP to accept this large increase. This is not only unscientific, it is also unconscionable.
But, as observed by Spycher et al (2015), some scientists “a priori exclude the possibility that low dose radiation could increase the risk of cancer. They will therefore not accept studies that challenge their foregone conclusion.”
One reason why such scientists refuse to accept radiation’s stochastic effects (cancers, strokes, CVS diseases, hereditary effects, etc) is that they only appear after long latency periods – often decades for solid cancers. For the Japanese Government and its radiation advisors, it seems out-of-sight means out-of-mind.
It is notable that Mikhail Gorbachev, President of the USSR at the time of Chernobyl and Naoto Kan, Prime Minister of Japan at the time of Fukushima have both expressed their opposition to nuclear power. Indeed Kan has called for all nuclear power to be abolished.
This article is distinctive in discussing, along with the damages incurred by evacuation, its importance as a life-saving measure and the need to enhance support systems for evacuees.