The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself–Unless Nuclear Power Is Involved

I was disappointed to see one of my favorite investment analysts, Barry Ritholtz, retail some ill-informed and completely without context or comparison harum-scarum on his website about how people in California are being exposed to hundreds of times normal radiation from the Fukushima meltdown of a year ago, adding, Jane Fonda-like, that “the government is doing everything it can to help citizens cover up what’s occurring.”  Higher levels are even showing up in our milk!  Panic!

You have to click through to some of the links to find out, for example, that the elevated levels of radiation exposure to someone who drinks a gallon of milk a week is “1 microsievert, or the total effective dose equivalent for only 12 minutes on an airplane flight or 3.7 hours of the average person’s background exposure from natural sources of radiation.”

So kudos are due to my sensible left-leaning environmental pals Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus of the Breakthrough Institute, for calling BS on the whole scene with their piece “The Making of a Radiation Panic.”

One year after Fukushima, independent scientists working for the UN say bluntly that irrational fears of radiation poisoning will cause far more harm than the radiation itself. Not a single individual from the Japanese public received a dangerous dose, according to the early and informal analyses by the scientists. (Conspiracy theories cannot survive against the constant independent radiation measurements uploaded on Twitter.) Even the 70 altruistic plant workers who stayed behind gained an additional cancer risk of just 0.002% — effectively zero in a country where four out of ten people get cancer.

Michael and Ted go on to conclude that overreaction to Fukushima probably poses greater health risks than radiation from Fukushima.

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