Friday, November 23, 2007

Radiation is not too deadly


talks about scientific teams, especially experts from GSF, that have analyzed several events that led to increased levels of radiation,

  1. Hiroshima in 1945
  2. Radioactive rivers and explosions in the Soviet Union preparing their nuclear bomb after 1949
  3. Chernobyl 1986

In all cases, it is found that the actual effects of "radiation illness", including birth defects and delayed deaths, were several orders of magnitude below the description available in the media. For example, almost all people who died as a consequence of the Little Boy did so either instantly or within a few hours, because of burned skin. Casualties who died after a long time because of radiation illnesses were very rare.

Similar conclusions hold for the contaminated river and the 1957 Chelyabinsk explosion of a tank with 80 tons of nuclear waste produced by the Soviet Union as well as for the Chernobyl tragedy. There doesn't seem to be any reliable source that would really prove an elevated frequency of birth effects and similar complications. Among 6,293 men who worked in the chemical plant preparing the radioactive material for the Soviet bomb (without masks!), only 100 died of lung cancer related to radiation. Greenpeace's proclamations that 50% of adults in those regions are infertile seem to be pure silliness.

It may be fair to say that whole generations have been living in the state of superstition concerning the health risks associated with radiation.

Hat tip: Benny Peiser


  1. It is difficult to determine the true health effects from the Chernobyl disaster. There have been birth defects and other complications in the affected populations. However, when these problems occurred (or surfaced) years after the accident, people were, and are, reluctant to attribute them to radiation exposure. Due to this hesitation, I don't think we will ever know for sure, the true affect of Chernobyl on the population.

    I personally visited the Chernobyl area for two days in June 2006 with a friend and former resident of Pripyat. We toured the Chernobyl Plant (including the Reactor 4 control room), several of the abandoned villages, and Pripyat. I have posted a photo journal of my trip at:

    My Journey to Chernobyl: 20 Years After the Disaster

  2. Dear Mark, thanks for your interesting link.

    I think it is very correct that people hesitate before they attribute a problem to an event.

    Blaming random possible culprits for random unpleasant events is not a scientific approach. Still, a scientific approach does exist. For example, a statistical analysis of the change of the number of cases with a certain condition is surely more scientific than random attributions.


  3. Lubos,

    I agree that a scientific approach does exist. However, I do know that many doctors in Ukraine and Belarus refuse to consider people's illnesses to be a result of Chernobyl's radiation strictly due to the amount of time since the accident.

    I am sure that some illnesses are not due to radiation, but the doctors refuse to even consider the possibility. As professionals, they should not rule out any possibilities without scientific proof, and that would require tests on each individual patient.