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Radiation Leaked From Japan’s Nuclear Power Plant Does Not Pose Immediate Public Health Risk, WHO Says

The decision on Tuesday by Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency to increase the level of severity at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant “does not mean the public health risk is any worse or that the disaster resembles Chernobyl in 1986,” the WHO and other agencies said in response to the announcement, Reuters reports.

“Our public health assessment is the same today as it was yesterday,” Gregory Hartl, a spokesperson for the WHO, said. The rating increase occurred after authorities decided to combine the radiation leaking from three reactors and count them as a single incident, Hartl said. “At the moment there is very little public health risk outside the 30-km (evacuation) zone,” he added. “Remember there is no one left … around the reactor, it has been evacuated” (Nebehay/Westall, 4/12).

Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) and the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan estimated cumulative radiation levels are approximately 10 percent of the total radiation thought to have been released by Chernobyl, Reuters reports. Lam Ching-wan, a chemical pathologist at the University of Hong Kong and member of the American Board of Toxicology, said that amount of leaked radiation “means there is damage to soil, ecosystem, water, food and people. People receive this radiation. You can’t escape it by just shutting the window” (Lyn, 4/12).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.