Fukushima media coverage ‘may be harmful’

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Andy Coghlan
New Scientist

Alarmist predictions that the long-term health effects of the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan will be worse than those following Chernobyl in 1986 are likely to aggravate harmful psychological effects of the incident. That was the warning heard at an international conference on radiation research in Warsaw, Poland, this week.

One report, in UK newspaper The Independent, quoted a scientist who predicted more than a million would die, and that the prolonged release of radioactivity from Fukushima would make health effects worse than those from the sudden release experienced at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in Ukraine.

“We’ve got to stop these sorts of reports coming out, because they are really upsetting the Japanese population,” says Gerry Thomas at Imperial College London, who is attending the meeting. “The media has a hell of a lot of responsibility here, because the worst post-Chernobyl effects were the psychological consequences and this shouldn’t happen again.”

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