Radiation Issues:One Year and Beyond-David J Brenner PhD Center for Radiological Research Columbia University Medical Center

How does one have a sane discussion about radiation issues? One way is to hear from respected thought leaders. Dr. David J Brenner of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University Medical Center gave an insightful presentation that was very helpful in understanding some of the main issues. Here are highlights from his presentation (attached).

The radioactive iodine-131, which was initially the main source of radiation exposure, is now all gone. What remains is extremely low-level long-term exposure to cesium-137.

The radiation mortality probability due to Fukushima is (~0.1%) comparable to risks of dying in Japan from…. 

               Traffic accident: 0.8%      Poisoning: 0.1%       Violence:  0.06%

The small individual risks applying to large populations represent public health issues rather than individual health concerns but conflicting messages and changing definitions of evacuation dose “limits” have caused intense anxiety.

Why is there such intense anxiety about radiation exposure among residents of Fukushima Prefecture (and in the rest of Japan)?

  • Radiation has always been a topic generating anxiety: invisible / associated with atomic bombs
  • Hard to understand / highly politicized
  • Conflicting messages and changing definitions of “safe” dose limits has increased anxiety
  • Fear of ongoing radiation exposure – food / radiation hot spots
  • Radiation stigmatization
  • Concern that authorities are concealing information

In future large-scale radiological events, worldwide, we should anticipate much skepticism regarding radiation information coming from the authorities.

One solution is to provide rapid and individualized measured radiation doses, for every person.

  • To identify individuals who really got high doses.
  • To reassure the great majority of people who got very low doses.



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