Psychological Risks from Mixed Messages on Radiation

Paul Voosen of Greenwire has explored the potential for long-lasting psychological harm from the mixed and varying messages on radiation risk in Tokyo:

  • Overnight, Tokyo transformed into the world’s largest psychological laboratory. Japan’s now-rescinded warning yesterday that radioactive iodine in the city’s drinking water exceeded standards set for infants’ chronic radiation exposure was, above all, a public health threat. But it is likely that the warning’s psychological effects on Tokyo could cause lasting stress to a group particularly at risk during nuclear crisis: young mothers. The mental health legacies of nuclear power accidents like Chernobyl and Three Mile Island are not open-and-shut cases. Parts of the population exposed to the accidents appear to bounce back quickly. There is resilience. But several groups have proved to be especially vulnerable to the stress caused by the accidents, said Evelyn Bromet, a psychiatric epidemiologist at New York’s Stony Brook University. ”[And] one of highest risk groups,” she said, “are women with little kids.” [Read the rest.]

There’s a lot more on the radiation “dread to risk ratio" and "warning whiplash" on Dot Earth.