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Fukushima nuclear disaster unlikely to have future health effects

June 2, 2013 | By Anthony Capkun

June 1, 2013 – Radiation leaked after Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 is unlikely to make the general public and the majority of workers sick says a United Nations scientific committee.

“Radiation exposure following the nuclear accident at Fukushima-Daiichi did not cause any immediate health effects,” said the UN scientific committee on the effect of atomic radiation (UNSCEAR).” the committee added it is unlikely to be able to attribute any health effects in the future among the general public and the vast majority of workers.

The finding comes from a report in which more than 80 international scientists analyzed the available information on the levels and effects of exposure following the March 2011 events in Japan.

That draft report was scrutinized by 27 countries on the Scientific Committee during its 60th session, which started May 27, and is now being revised and finalized for presentation to the UN General Assembly. “The report has the full confidence of the committee,” said UNSCEAR chair Carl-Magnus Larsson.

The actions taken to protect the public, such as evacuations and sheltering, significantly reduced the radiation exposures that would have otherwise been received, concluded the committee.

“These measures reduced the potential exposure by up to a factor of 10. If that had not been the case, we might have seen the cancer rates rising and other health problems emerging over the next several decades,” said Wolfgang Weiss, chair, UNSCEAR report on radiological impact of the Fukushima-Daiichi accident.

The committee added that no radiation-related deaths or acute effects have been observed among the nearly 25,000 workers at the accident site, nor is it likely that excess cases of thyroid cancer due to radiation exposure would be detectable.

“The experience from the 1986 Chernobyl accident has shown us that, apart from any direct impact on physical health, the social and societal effects—and their associated health consequences in the affected population—will need special attention in the coming years,” Larsson said, noting the importance of long-term medical follow-up.

In addition, he cautioned about the impact of stress: “Families are suffering, and people have been uprooted and are concerned about their livelihoods and futures, the health of their children… it is these issues that will be the long-lasting fallout of the accident”.

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