A new study has found that the survivors of the two atom bombs dropped on Japan on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, which led to the surrender of Japan in World War 2, did not suffer as many negative health effects as it was previously believed.
The study was published in the journal Genetics by the leader of the research team, Bertrand Jordan, a molecular biologist at the Aix-Marseille University in France. The study obtained funding from both the US and Japanese governments. The study consisted in a review analysis of the data from more than 100 previously published studies in order to determine the exact state of health the survivors were in after the bombings.
The study found that the long-term effects of radiation weren’t nearly as bad as it was originally feared. Overall, the study observed data from 44, 635 cases of radiation exposure from Hiroshima alone. Among these, the researchers found that although they were more likely to develop cancer, their average life expectancy was only 1.3 years shorter than the national average in Japan at that time. A total of 848 additional people developed cancer as a direct result of the atom bombs’ radiation.
Overall, the survivors from Hiroshima only had a 42 percent increased risk of cancer, a result which means that smokers have the same chance of developing the disease as the survivors of an atom bomb similar to the ones dropped in Japan. The estimates of the dangers that nuclear radiation poses have huge implications for nuclear power.
According to Jordan:
““There’s an enormous gap between that belief and what has actually been found by researchers. The extent of the overestimation even in the scientific community is quite striking. I would prefer that people look at the scientific data, rather than gross exaggerations of the danger.”
Over the course of the study, the research team analyzed data from almost 100, 000 survivors from both cities targeted by the atom bombs, as well as 77, 000 of their children and 20, 000 people who did not suffer radiation exposure.
According to Richard Wakeford, an epidemiologist from the University of Manchester, not involved with the study:
“An enormous effort has been devoted to the scientific study of the A-bomb survivors, which is why the data are so valuable. Even so, public perception of the risks of radiation exposure is at variance with the scientific evidence, possibly because of fear surrounding nuclear weapons.”
Other recent studies have also shown that the dangers of radiation from nuclear disasters such Chernobyl and Fukushima, was severely overestimated. The predictions of thousands of cancer deaths from these events haven’t become a reality.
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