Fish, cancer, and Fukushima

There was a recent report  in a Vancouver paper about the problem of fish irradiated by the disaster at Fukushima.  According to one expert, there might be 800 deaths from cancer.

About 800 people worldwide will get cancer from radiation due to Fukushima in fish eaten to date, according to Georgia Straightcalculations. The Straight results relied on a widely used cancer-risk formula developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as well as radiation levels in 33,000 fish tested by the Japanese Fisheries Agency.

Others felt that the numbers are low.

nuclear experts who saw theStraight’s figures said the real cancer toll could be 100 times higher—or 80,000 cancers…“The potential numbers could be two orders of magnitude [100 times] higher than your numbers,” Daniel Hirsch, a nuclear-policy lecturer at the University of California at Santa Cruz, said in a phone interview. “Hundreds of cancers are nothing to sneeze at, and it is a fraction of what I suspect the total will be.”

The cancer numbers also don’t include other possible health impacts from radiation in the fish, such as heart disease, stillbirths, and genetic damage to subsequent generations…Those cases could actually outnumber the cancers, according to Sebastian Pflugbeil, a physicist in Germany who travelled to Japan to study Fukushima’s health impacts and who studied the impacts of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster….Pflugbeil checked the Straight’s calculations to make sure they were accurate, and he agreed with Hirsch that the final cancer toll could be 100 times higher. “Your calculation is nearly the lowest possible number of problems,” he said in a phone interview from Berlin.

Others point out that allowable standards are a fiction.   For example,

In Berlin, Pflugbeil rejected Hinton’s argument, saying radiation from Fukushima can still cause cancers even if it is lower than natural radiation and government ceilings….For example, 150,000 more people in Germany would die of cancer each year if all food had radiation at the European Union ceiling, according to a 2011 study Pflugbeil coauthored about Fukushima for Berlin-based Foodwatch….“The allowed level of radiation in food is not the result of medical calculations but is a level which the atomic industry thinks it can accept. It’s very important to understand that the health of people plays almost no role in such calculations,” Pflugbeil told theStraight.

 

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