A leading biophysicist has cast a critical light on the government’s reassurances that Americans were never at risk from Fukushima fallout, saying “we really don’t know for sure.”
When radioactive fallout from Japan’s nuclear disaster began appearing in the United States this spring, the Obama Administration’s open-data policy obligated the government to inform the public, in some detail, what was landing here.
Covering the story, I watched the government pursue what appeared to be two strategies to minimize public alarm:
- It framed the data with reassurances like this oft-repeated sentence from the EPA: “The level detected is far below a level of public health concern.” The question, of course, is whose concern.
- The EPA seemed to be timing its data releases to avoid media coverage. It released its most alarming data set late on a Friday—data that showed radioactive fallout in the drinking water of more than a dozen U.S. cities.
Friday and Saturday data releases were most frequent when radiation levels were highest. And despite the ravages newspapers have suffered from internet competition, newspaper editors still have not learned to assign reporters to watch the government on weekends.