70% more Fukushima kids will die of cancer!

This Associated Press article was widely syndicated, and Washington Post was the first hit I got from Google:

Two years after Japan’s nuclear plant disaster, an international team of experts said Thursday that residents of areas hit by the highest doses of radiation face an increased cancer risk so small it probably won’t be detectable.

But then:

In fact, experts calculated that increase at about 1 extra percentage point added to a Japanese infant’s lifetime cancer risk.

That, to me, is written to suggest that all Japanese infants have a one extra percentage point, but we see further down:

Normally in Japan, the lifetime risk of developing cancer of an organ is about 41 percent for men and 29 percent for women. The new report said that for infants in the most heavily exposed areas, the radiation from Fukushima would add about 1 percentage point to those numbers.

It seems clear to me that this one percentage point refers to those directly exposed, not to Japan as a whole, and common sense would suggest that given an evacuated population of a few hundred thousand, or less than 0.5% of the population, just about everyone from that sample would have to get cancer to influence the national figures by one percentage point. Therefore I conclude that the one percentage point refers to those most directly affected, and the general population will see no effect.

More extracts:

“This will fuel fears in Japan that could be more dangerous than the physical effects of radiation,” she [Gerry Thomas, a professor of molecular pathology at Imperial College London] said, noting that people living under stress have higher rates of heart problems, suicide and mental illness.

And

Kanno [Norio Kanno, the chief of Iitate village] accused the report’s authors of exaggerating the cancer risk and stoking fear among residents.

My headline is of course a total lie and distortion of the report, but I am sure some people will use it, if they are not too busy discrediting the WHO.

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24 Comments.

  1. Maybe it’s just me, but I find it difficult to express more than marginal concern about this report after I keep seeing the clouds of pea-soup smog and dust roiling off the Asian continent on the news every night. Do you need to mention radioactive cooties to start the international rage-o-plex nowadays?

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  2. >exaggerating the cancer risk and stoking fear among residents.

    Saw this on the news last night, and it was stated that the WHO went for a very “worst case” scenario, since, I believe, their purpose in the report was to give local and national authorities an idea of what level of response should be necessary, not to reassure local residents.

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  3. @Sixth Sense:

    Yeah…in no possible way could THAT backfire…

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  4. Time will tell, these things are predictions. It would be myopic however to suggest that there won’t be an increase in cancer deaths in the Fukushima area. Just a question of numbers.

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  5. iLikedolphins

    Ha!

    Johnny is so dull!

    Come back to the light son.

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  6. And if the number of extra deaths is less than the variability, the variability will be ignored.
    If the number of extra cancers is less than the number of extra heart attacks, that will be ignored too.
    If the number of extra deaths is less than the number of extra suicides, that will be ignored too, and the fearmongers pat themselves on the back for caring so much.

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  7. @Sixth Sense:

    I’ve read that the WHO has based its results on probable overestimates of the length of time people were exposed to these high rates. Gerry Thomas (who was heavily involved in Chernobyl research) has also suggested these forecasts are probably overestimates.

    Even if they aren’t, these are heartening figures. And it’s good to see what should be mainstream media finally returning en masse to mainstream science on this issue. Tabuchi’s NYT piece was very good.

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  8. Shame that the government seems to have criticised the report rather than acknowledge the evidence. It will add to the mood of suspicion and the sense the authorities are in denial, rather than help people move on from the disaster.

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  9. Maybe the government is going for that reverse psychology angle?

    “The government has been lying to us! It is all a cover up! We are in any immediate danger! See! They are trying to cover up the evidence that shows that!”

    Could happen.

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  10. @Pessoa: I think that’s a very good point – hasn’t all the recent disaster planning, like the 320,000 dead from a Nankai Trough quake, been based on the absolute worst case?

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  11. On a similar note, here’s more anti-nuclear emotionalism.

    Two scientists who think the same way as him make assertions, but the WHO only claims. :facepalm:

    BTW, I posted a comment, but the two others that I have never got past moderation.

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  12. @Ken Y-N:

    Oh for f**ks sake. Roger Pulvers is surely the Fookooshimar in chief. There is so much wrong with that article I don’t know where to start. OK, how about the beginning?

    Tohoku has been truly rent asunder for untold generations yet to be born

    “truly rent asunder” is simply ghastly. This man is meant to be a literary figure. Why doesn’t he put in a few “thou hasts” amd “pray, thithers” as well, for the full pretentious effect?

    “untold” means “incalculably high”, and no sane scientist thinks that the radiation will persist at high levels for however long he thinks “untold” means. Hell, a fairly large part of the evacuation zone is safe for resettlement now. But the best bit is when you put that bit together with “generations yet to be born.” Well, if it’s an untold number of generations, then OF COURSE THEY’RE NOT BORN YET. :headdesk: That’s how biology works.

    The birds seem oblivious to the calamity that changed the lives of all animals on the ground after March 11, 2011.

    Shit, don’t these birds read the Japan Times? Why have they not yet signed a publishing deal for a book on How It Affected Me?

    But the thing that distinguishes this district of Tohoku from those contaminated by radioactivity is the heroic attempt to bring life back to normal.

    So, don’t worry that upwards of 18,000 people have died. You can always rebuild. And it’s not the radiation that preventing a large part of the evacuation zone being rebuilt, it’s a government decision.

    As for Moller and Mousseau, they are anti-nuclear hacks whose work gets trashed by other academics of somewhat better standing. Moller, as too few media articles on his research have honestly mentioned, was convicted of academic fraud in the early 2000s (he fabricated data, and many have come out and said openly they think he was doing it over a long period of time). He and Mousseau have been quite aggressively condemned by other Chernobyl researchers for claiming deformities and decimated populations that no one else is able to find – including one person who was gathering data with them! I can dig out some references if anyone’s interested, but basically, I wouldn’t trust them with anything.

    Here’s an example:

    “Radiation is everywhere, but it cannot be seen, smelt or felt,” they write. But in the affected zones, the visitor notices “gnarly distortions of tree growth and numerous abnormalities in insects, birds and other animals. These are caused by genetic mutations induced by exposure to the radiation.”

    The trees have become gnarled? In less than two years? At levels of radiation that are widely found naturally elsewhere in the world? :roll:

    Here’s another funny bit:

    A human generation is of the order of 30 years; so studies, even of the effects of the Chernobyl disaster, are essentially still in the first generation.

    :facepalm: :headdesk: :headdesk: :headdesk: People don’t have children en masse once every thirty years! Jesus wept. We have people giving birth every year, and a substantial number of those born at or after the disaster have now had children themselves.

    But more seriously, there is no pattern of birth defects from radiation at Chernobyl. It is one of the most important findings of researchers because it can help to reassure parents who otherwise, as we have seen, may start drinking (hence a massive rise in foetal alcohol syndrome in Belarus and Ukraine following Chernobyl), abort children (as happened across Europe) or otherwise cause distress that impacts on the physical and mental wellbeing of the children they do bear. Happy with that, Roger? You want to encourage that fear?

    A nuclearized Japan is the greatest terror facing the people of this country.

    :headdesk: No. The greatest terror is still massive earthquakes and tsunamis. You may have heard about one happening a couple of years ago. It killed quite a large number of people. Tsunamis, by the way, are going to get worse. Why? Because of the rise in sea level that’s happening because of our use of fossil fuels. Our use of fossil fuels is increasing. Now, why again is that? Tokyo (where Pulver lives) is going to be in particular trouble.

    The man shouldn’t be allowed near an article until he learns a bit of…oh, what’s that thing that the gaijin chattering classes are always moaning that Japanese can’t do? Oh yes, critical thinking.

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  13. and breathe……..

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  14. (…in through the nose, out through the mouth…in through the nose, out through the mouth…)

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  15. my god that article was ghastly. Is it possible for anti-nuke people to once write without hyperbole?

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  16. As well as the dubious choice of experts, that article perpetuates the idea that Tohoku people must be seen as the entirely passive victims of events; objects to be rescued and pitied, rather than citizens capable of any agency. The anti-nucelar lobby are by no means the only people promoting this view, but it is preventing serious arguments about reconstruction efforts.

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  17. Damn, the JT moderator must not like me – my comment still hasn’t appeared. Perhaps I should be using a pseudonym instead of my real name?

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  18. @Ken Y-N:

    Have you thought about changing your login name to TEPCOLiesUnearthed ?

    You might sneak through the filter that way.

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  19. @Ken Y-N:

    So that’s five people actually signed into to Disqus who were able to vote down the only comment that’s there. Ken is at least one person whose comment hasn’t been let through. On a really problematic article. I can’t believe Ken would have written something that broke the official comment guidelines.

    Are there unofficial guidelines too?

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  20. And as if by magic, a couple of days worth of comments appear. :roll: Only not Ken’s. :roll: Seriously, the JT need to sort out moderation. Half the comments are about comments not appearing or disappearing after edits. I’m still suspicious that they only let a nicey-nice “check some apocalyptic blogs, comrades” comment stand for a couple of days. How time-consuming is moderation anyway?

    On the plus side, it’s good to see someone went to town on Moller and Mousseau.

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  21. @VK: I’ll maybe have one more go on another story somewhere, and if that fails to get through I’ll just give up and stick to voting. :roll:

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  22. …and more, pardon my French, fucking vampires:

    NOT ENOUGH CHILDREN ARE DYING!

    “It’s a report that was meant to reassure people who, almost certainly, many will develop leukaemia and cancer,”

    From that bastion of truth Helen Caldicott. :headdesk:

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  23. @Ken Y-N: Well, she’s correct in saying “many”, as in 40% of all Japanese, will get cancer for one reason or another not connected with Fukushima, but we all know she wants to imply (does she really believe?) that “many” will get cancer from Fukushima. :facepalm:

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