Special Issue on the Great East Japan Earthquake Disaster: Part III – Risk Communication –
Following its two special issues on the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake Disaster, the Journal of Disaster Research is now publishing this third issue focusing on risk communication.
The earthquake and tsunami killed over 20,000 people, destroyed houses, farmlands, and communities, and led to a large amount of radioactive materials being released from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. These materials contaminated the environment and foods and forced almost 160,000 people to be evacuated from the highly contaminated district.
Ruined buildings are now being reconstructed and adversely affected farmland is being decontaminated. The victims remained concerned, however, about their future, especially those exposed to even very low-level radiation.
Chernobyl’s Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts, a landmark report released by the Chernobyl Forum in 2005, assessed the 20-year impact of the nuclear explosion at the Chernobyl power plant in 1986. One of its important findings was that 4,000 cases of thyroid cancer, mainly in children, had occurred but that except for nine deaths, all of the children recovered and that there was no evidence of any increase in the incidence of leukemia or cancer among affected residents.
Such facts as these are not generally known, however, many health conditions have been erroneously attributed to radiation exposure and myths and misperceptions have persisted about the threat of radiation, resulting in a “paralyzing fatalism” among residents of affected areas.
The Chernobyl report recommends developing new and innovative ways of risk communication to increase knowledge about the actual health effects of radiation and providing accurate information on the incident’s physical and mental health consequences.
Over the last three years, experts in risk communication in Japan have continued working to disseminate scientifically accurate information about radiation. This issue discusses the current status and questions related to the incident.