[Marxism] The Dangerous Myths of Fukushima

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Mar 9 13:56:08 MST 2012

Counterpunch Weekend Edition March 9-11, 2012

Exposing the "No Harm" Mantra
The Dangerous Myths of Fukushima

The myth that Fukushima radiation levels were too low to harm 
humans persists, a year after the meltdown. A March 2, 2012 New 
York Times article quoted Vanderbilt University professor John 
Boice: “there’s no opportunity for conducting epidemiological 
studies that have any chance for success – the doses are just too 
low.” Wolfgang Weiss of the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects 
of Atomic Radiation also recently said doses observed in screening 
of Japanese people “are very low.”

Views like these are political, not scientific, virtually 
identical to what the nuclear industry cheerleaders claim. Nuclear 
Energy Institute spokesperson Tony Pietrangelo issued a statement 
in June that “no health effects are expected among the Japanese 
people as a result of the events at Fukushima.”

In their haste to choke off all consideration of harm from 
Fukushima radiation, nuclear plant owners and their willing dupes 
in the scientific community built a castle against invaders – 
those open-minded researchers who would first conduct objective 
research BEFORE rushing to judgment. The pro-nuclear chants of “no 
harm” and “no studies needed” are intended to be permanent, as 
part of damage control created by a dangerous technology that has 
produced yet another catastrophe.

But just one year after Fukushima, the “no harm” mantra is now 
being crowded by evidence – evidence to the contrary.

First, estimates of releases have soared. The first reports issued 
by the Japanese government stated that emissions equaled 10% of 
1986 Chernobyl emissions. A few weeks later, they doubled that 
estimate to 20%. By October 2011, an article in the journal Nature 
estimated Fukushima emissions to be more than double that of 
Chernobyl. How anyone, let alone scientists, could call Fukushima 
doses “too low” to cause harm in the face of this evidence is 

Where did the radioactive particles and gases go? Officials from 
national meteorological agencies in countries like France and 
Austria followed the plume, and made colorful maps available on 
the internet. Within six days of the meltdowns, the plume had 
reached the U.S., and within 18 days, it had circled the Northern 

How much radiation entered the U.S. environment? A July 2011 
journal article by officials at Pacific Northwest National Lab in 
eastern Washington State measured airborne radioactive Xenon-133 
up to 40,000 times greater than normal in the weeks following the 
fallout. Xenon-133 is a gas that travels rapidly and does not 
enter the body, but signals that other, more dangerous types of 
radioactive chemicals will follow.

A February 2012 journal article by the U.S. Geological Survey 
looked at radioactive Iodine-131 that entered soil from rainfall, 
and found levels hundreds of times above normal in places like 
Portland OR, Fresno CA, and Denver CO. The same places also had 
the highest levels of Cesium-134 and Cesium-137 in the U.S. While 
elevated radiation levels were found in all parts of the country, 
it appears that the West Coast and Rocky Mountain states received 
the greatest amounts of Fukushima fallout.

Radiation in rainfall guarantees that humans will ingest a 
poisonous mix of chemicals. The rain enters reservoirs of drinking 
water, pastures where milk-giving cows graze, the soil of produce 
farms, and other sources of food and water.

Finally, how many people were harmed by Fukushima in the short 
term? Official studies have chipped away at the oft-repeated claim 
that nobody died from Fukushima. Last month brought the news that 
573 deaths in the area near the stricken reactors were certified 
by coroners as related to the nuclear crisis, with dozens more 
deaths to be reviewed. Another survey showed that births near 
Fukushima declined 25% in the three months following the 
meltdowns. One physician speculated that many women chose to 
deliver away from Fukushima, but an increase in stillbirths 
remains as a potential factor. In British Columbia, the number of 
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome deaths was 10 in the first three 
months after Fukushima, up from just one a year before.

On December 19, 2011, we announced the publication of the first 
peer-reviewed scientific journal article examining potential 
health risks after Fukushima. In the 14 week period March 20 – 
June 25, 2011, there was an increase in deaths reported to the CDC 
by 122 U.S. cities. If final statistics (not available until late 
2014) confirm this trend, about 14,000 “excess” deaths occurred 
among Americans in this period.

We made no statement that only Fukushima fallout caused these 
patterns. But we found some red flags: infants had the greatest 
excess (infants are most susceptible to radiation), and a similar 
increase occurred in the U.S. in the months following Chernobyl. 
Our study reinforced Fukushima health hazard concerns, and we hope 
to spur others to engage in research on both short-term and 
long-term effects.

For years, the assumption that low-dose radiation doesn’t harm 
people has been used, only to fall flat on its face every time. 
X-rays to abdomens of pregnant women, exposure to atom bomb 
fallout, and exposures to nuclear weapons workers were all once 
presumed to be harmless due to low dose levels – until scientific 
studies proved otherwise. Officials have dropped their assumptions 
on theses types of exposures, but continue to claim that Fukushima 
was harmless.

Simply dismissing needed research on Fukushima health consequences 
because doses are “too low” is irresponsible, and contradictory to 
many scientific studies. There will most certainly be a fight over 
Fukushima health studies, much like there was after Chernobyl and 
Three Mile Island. However, we hope that the dialogue will be open 
minded and will use evidence over assumptions, rather than just 
scoffing at what may well turn out to be the worst nuclear 
disaster in history.

Joseph Mangano is an epidemiologist and Executive Director of the 
Radiation and Public Health Project.

Janette Sherman is an internist and toxicologist.

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