While there is much just cause to be gravely concerned about radiation hazards in Japan these days, one must also use a certain amount of critical thinking so as not to be caught up in hysteria that easily arises. People all too easily panic; in the U.S., many people consumed iodine pills despite having no reason to. The pills posed a greater health threat than the minuscule amounts of radiation that they may have been exposed to. People took them anyway, because they were caught up in the hysteria.
Now, sometimes concern is warranted. For example, the Japanese government raised the “safe” level of radiation exposure for children from 1 millisievert to 20 millisieverts per year, so as to allow them to be exposed to playgrounds with previously unacceptable levels of radiation. Parents were not amused.
I would certainly agree that parents should be upset. While the jury is still out on exactly what is safe or not, upping the safe limit to the point where German nuclear workers would balk is probably less a matter of following safety and more a matter of moving goalposts and risking children’s health so as to save expense. Where children are concerned and replacement of playground topsoil can remove 90% of the radiation hazard, changing the government standard like this is a weasel’s way out.
However, in some cases, a little critical thinking is called for before getting upset. A video has appeared on YouTube of an earless rabbit in Fukushima:
This is causing some alarm, though fortunately it has not been picked up by the media aside from the IB Times–yet. And while this story could show the harmful effects of radiation in Fukushima, it would be foolish to take it seriously without verification and analysis. If you watch the video, you may notice that there is nothing showing where the video was taken nor when it was taken. No one even speaks in the video. For all we know, this video could have been taken a year ago in South Dakota. While the poster is listed as being in Fukushima, that also could be claimed by anyone, anywhere in the world; YouTube does not verify locations claimed by users, that I know of.
Next, even if it is from Fukushima, that tells us next to nothing. The IB Times report says the person who posted the video claims, “This is the first anomaly/deformation ever born.” Either that was mistranslated, or was a typo, or the person is simply wrong. A quick Google search will reveal quite a few earless rabbits born around the world, like a rabbit named Vincent in England in 2008. It is not an unheard-of deformity. Nor can we be sure if it was even caused by radiation; it could have been caused by exposure to pollution, as we see happening with amphibians.
And even if it is caused by radiation, how unusual is that? One rabbit is hardly a scientifically relevant sampling. And even if it does show a rise in damage, then how does this compare with what we already expected? Some might say this has value as a canary in a coal mine, but frankly, I think that people are already on heightened alert to health hazards posed by radiation. If they weren’t tipped off by the three nuclear reactors exploding on TV, and only caught on when they saw a YouTube video of a bunny, then I think they should be paying a bit more attention.
Now, if a study came out showing a significant number of animal mutations due to radiation from a large enough sampling in a certain region nearby the reactor, and this could act as evidence that hazards are in excess of what was expected from the radiation exposures thought to exist, therefore indicating some risk we were previously unaware of–then I would be concerned.
Until then, this is random data.