Fukushima taught us important lessons—will we learn?
I just read a new, well-researched report from the Environmental Health Prospectives that provides guidelines for the key steps authorities must take as soon as possible after a nuclear reactor accident releases radiation downwind. Everyone should know these things!
1. Create an Exposure Roster: Make a complete list of everyone who might have been exposed. Make sure this list includes those who are most vulnerable to radiation: pregnant women, children and adolescents, the elderly, and people who might be more sensitive to radiation for other reasons (for example, those who are ill, those with suppressed immune systems).
2. Measure Both Internal and External Radiation Exposure: Use questionnaires to collect information as soon as possible, before facts are forgotten.
Internal exposure: track each individual’s sources of food and water consumed, how much was consumed, and preparation rates of the contaminated food.
External Exposure: determine where each person was during time of exposure, the kind of building in which that person lived or worked, and number of hours spent indoors each day in each location.
Once exposures have been determined, exposed individuals can be informed of potential health problems that may show up soon or after latency periods have passed. This can help catch radiogenic cancers and other disease in early, possibly treatable stages.
The key to all of this is reactor operators’ honesty in providing accurate and comprehensive information on the quantity and specifics of radionuclides released.
 Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol 122, No. 1, January 2014, by André Bouville (NCI [retired], NIH, DHHS); and Martha S. Linet, Maureen Hatch, Kiyohiko Mabuchi, and Steven L Simon (Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, NCI, NIH, DHHS).