On February 28th, 2013 the Associated Press reported a story from the World Health Organization saying that there was only a slight risk of cancer from the Fukushima disaster. The World Health Organization published a study showing that there was only "one extra percentage point" added to a Japanese infant's lifetime cancer risk.
"The additional risk is quite small and will probably be hidden by the noise of other (cancer) risks like people's lifestyle choices and statistical fluctuations," said Richard Wakeford of the University of Manchester, one of the authors of the report. "It's more important not to start smoking than having been in Fukushima."
The article then goes on to quote David Brenner of Columbia University (NY) as agreeing with the study. It then goes on to quote two experts suggesting that the study overstated the risks, Wade Allison, emeritus professor of physics at Oxford and Gerry Thomas, professor of molecular pathology at Imperial College, London.
However, the article fails to cite experts who would argue that the WHO study does not go far enough in warning of the risks from the Fukushima disaster. Harvey Wasserman, posting in Common Dreams, quotes the Fukushima Prefecture Health Management Survey as saying that 40% of the children that they studied already have thyroid abnormalities, which can lead to cancer. They surveyed 94,975, out of which 38,000 already have thyroid abnormalities. They have conducted 10 such studies and they report that the problem has been increasing over time.
The thyroid is especially at risk following a nuclear accident. This is especially true in children who are exposed to radiation since childrens' cells grow at a much faster rate than adults. The thyroid is the organ which helps the body use energy, stay warm, and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working as they should. Therefore, if a person is exposed to radiation from a nuclear accident and the thyroid is affected, then that person is at risk for experiencing a whole host of health problems over a long period of time.
The Chernybol disaster caused cancer in at least 3,000 children over the next 10 years, most of whom were exposed to the radiation. People who are exposed to that kind of radiation level may require constant care over their lifetimes, meaning a high burden on healthcare systems depending on the magnitude of the disaster.
A news release from the Radiation and Public Health Project reports that there have already been 14,000 excess deaths in the US due to radiation exposure from Fukushima .
Authors Joseph Mangano and Janette Sherman note that their estimate of 14,000 excess U.S. deaths in the 14 weeks after the Fukushima meltdowns is comparable to the 16,500 excess deaths in the 17 weeks after the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986. The rise in reported deaths after Fukushima was largest among U.S. infants under age one. The 2010-2011 increase for infant deaths in the spring was 1.8 percent, compared to a decrease of 8.37 percent in the preceding 14 weeks.
Just six days after the disastrous meltdowns struck four reactors at Fukushima on March 11, 2011, scientists detected the plume of toxic fallout had arrived over American shores. Subsequent measurements by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found levels of radiation in air, water, and milk hundreds of times above normal across the U.S.
That news release was published in 2011 and was later revised upwards to 22,000.