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In his June 21 letter, “Accurate radiation information needed,” Scott Hards argues that if accurate information had been made freely available after the Fukushima nuclear plant accidents, a significant amount of stress and disruption of people’s lives could have been avoided. Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple.

While we know that very high levels of radiation can kill you, no one knows what level of radiation exposure over a long period will increase the statistically measurable probability of your developing health problems. As a result, national and international health organizations adopt an ALARA policy — As Low (a radiation-exposure level) As Reasonably Achievable.

Thus the limit of “1 mSv per year” for five years for people in general has absolutely nothing to do with the public health threat. What this means is that it should be possible to keep exposure to individuals down to that level without too great an expense.

Now, imagine if the Japanese government had responded to the Fukushima accidents by telling the public that they shouldn’t worry because the recommended limits actually don’t mean anything relative to their health. That would be accurate and true, but politically unacceptable. It’s a veritable “Catch-22,” isn’t it?

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

andrew coad

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