It's true that certain fears of a nuclear apocalypse are way overblown, and that news organizations that are seeking to cash in on the panic are behaving unscrupulously (I'm looking at you, New York Post). But sensationalism can break both ways -- and there's no excuse for the junk science and potentially dangerous message that the political pundit Ann Coulter is peddling: That receiving radiation in doses in excess the federally designated safe levels is actually "good for you". Coulter pushed this notion first in a syndicated column, then in a segment on Fox News. Just watch. Of course, this idea is very, very wrong.In fact, Joe Romm points us to the most recent study done by the National Acadamies' National Research Center on this very subject -- and guess what that study's called? Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation: Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation May Cause Harm. Yes, the prevailing wisdom of scientists, in the most up-to-date peer-reviewed work on the subject, shows that even exposure to low levels of radiation can be dangerous.
The report clearly states that "A preponderance of scientific evidence shows that even low doses of ionizing radiation, such as gamma rays and X-rays, are likely to pose some risk of adverse health effects." And there's more:
"The scientific research base shows that there is no threshold of exposure below which low levels of ionizing radiation can be demonstrated to be harmless or beneficial," said committee chair Richard R. Monson, associate dean for professional education and professor of epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston. "The health risks -- particularly the development of solid cancers in organs -- rise proportionally with exposure."
Again, this doesn't mean run for the hills if you live within 3,000 miles of Japan -- it just means we should be behaving responsibly, and taking into account the best science when discussing the risks and complexities of the current situation. It also means that we should be rushing to debunk opportunists like Coulter, who smell a chance to grab the spotlight with some tantalizingly contrarian ideas -- and who don't give a damn whether those ideas are actually backed by science, or even if they might be leaving people with some dangerously misleading information.
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Good Information on Radiation
How Much Radiation Exposure Do You Normally Get Every Year?
Nuclear Test Ban Organization Collects Radiation Data, But Isn't Allowed to Show You
The Impact of the Nuclear Crisis on Japan's Food Supply