Society News Archive
The Health Physics Society (HPS) convened a panel of leading scientific experts on radiation safety at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on 1 March 2012 for the benefit of invited media personnel. The name of the program was "Risks and Effects of Radiation: Putting Fukushima in Context."
As the world remembers the one-year anniversary of the 2011 tsunami that devastated Japan and set off a tragic chain of events that included the nuclear reactor incident in Fukushima, the panel of leading scientific and medical experts reported on the risks and effects of radiation on the Japanese and other populations. A first-hand account of the impacts on the Fukushima population was provided by two members of the distinguished panel. The discussions included the health effects of radiation immediately following the event to present day and an analysis of future risks for the population.
The panel consisted of John Boice, ScD; Robert Emery, DrPH, CHP, CIH; Robert Peter Gale, MD, PhD, DS. (Hon); Kathryn Higley, PhD, CHP; and Richard Vetter, PhD, CHP. It was moderated by Howard Dickson, CHP, CSP, and CIH.
Members of the Washington panel agreed that while they considered the physical health risks from the exposure too small to measure, the accident would still have an impact. Psychological trauma from the evacuation and months away from home could end up being the biggest health risk from the accident.
Dr. Gale said he believed the exaggerated environmental and health risk claims from alarmists could backfire by making it harder for people in Fukushima Prefecture to resume their normal lives and businesses. "Already we see a stigmatization of people from that area or products from that area," he said. "It's very hard for them to survive. It's quite unfortunate."
While the quake and tsunami killed an estimated 20,000 people, radiation has not killed anyone so far, and members of the Health Physics Society, drawn from academia, medicine, and the nuclear industry, suggested that the doses were too small to have much effect. "There’s no opportunity for conducting epidemiological studies that have any chance of success," said Dr. Boice. "The doses are just too low. If you were to do a proposal, it would not pass a scientific review."
Members of the press asked several questions of the panel during the press conference and visited individually with panel members after the event.
A video of all the proceedings will be available in a few days. Watch for it on the HPS website (hps.org).