2011 November 21|
To The Editor,
The Globe and Mail:
RE: "Cancer fallout from Japan's nuclear disaster may be hard to detect", Nov. 20
While it is true that any increase in cancer due to the radiation released at Fukushima will likely never be noticed, this is certainly not due to our understanding of the effects of radiation exposure being "so limited". In fact, we probably understand more about radiation than any other agent in our environment. This includes being able to track it and control it better than anything else.
A combination of factors account for this remarkable situation, including the unique physical nature of radiation and the unprecedented level of scientific attention paid to it over the past 100 years.
In short, the reason why we won't see an increase in cancer due to Fukushima is simply because the amount of radiation released was so small. The doses are in the range where we don't see any health effects - even amongst the millions of people routinely exposed to higher radiation levels elsewhere on the planet due to mother nature.
There is even a growing body of evidence that suggests that radiation exposure at these doses is good for you: in laboratory studies it has been shown to stimulate immune system response and play a protective role against the much harsher chemical agents we encounter every day.
This reality is, of course, inconsistent with the public's perception of Fukushima, and of radiation in general. Nevertheless, as probably the only piece of major energy infrastructure that didn't kill anyone following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, perhaps it's time that nuclear technology is viewed against its actual record of safety.