Great example of debunking bad science: on health effects Fukushima fallout in USA

There is a lot of fear mongering on the effects of the Fukushima disaster. Most of it comes from vague sources and is easily debunked. Things get a bit more complicated when supposedly real scientists are publishing articles in peer reviewed journals which show horrifying health figures caused by radioactive fallout in the months following the events which started with the deathly tsunami which struck upon the Japanese coast. Joseph Mangano and Janette Sherman startled the US public with at least two articles, one even showing that probably 14,000 Americans had died due to the radiation. These scientists, however, have a clear anti-nucleair agenda and their calculations are deliberately misleading, as other more sincere scientists discovered.

The article on the 14,000 excess deaths was introduced by a press release:

 An estimated 14,000 excess deaths in the United States are linked to the radioactive fallout from the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear reactors in Japan, according to a major new article in the December 2011 edition of the International Journal of Health Services.   This is the first peer-reviewed study published in a medical journal documenting the health hazards of Fukushima.

The article itself was published as: An unexpected mortality increase in the United States follows arrival of the radioactive plume from Fukushima: is there a correlation? More recent (2013) is the article in which they show an increase in congenital hypothyrodism in the months following the Fukushima disaster: Changes in confirmed plus borderline cases of congenital hypothyroidism in California as a function of environmental fallout from the Fukushima nuclear meltdown (Open Journal of Pediatrics).

Sounds frightening, doesn’t it? However both articles are completely bogus. In the following video these articles are ripped apart:

Popular Mechanics published a nice article on the nasty consequences of publication of this sort of bad science: What Can We Do About Junk Science? It ends with the following statement:

It’s easy to blame the impact of junk science on sloppy experiments, irresponsible reporters, or a failure of peer review. But even after it’s debunked, junk science sticks because it preys on the public’s fear and distrust. Ultimately, junk science can be dispelled only if individuals think like scientists: Evaluate all the evidence and try to disprove your own preconceptions.

This might be true, but I think it takes some effort by scientists to lead those individuals where to look for good evidence and to give some clues how to evaluate it. An academic ‘debunk’ in the form of a response on the article in the journal which published it, will also probably not reach the wider audience which was misled by the original article itself or it’s passing on in an uncritical way by other media. And such a response could be behind a paywall as well. That’s why I appreciate this debunking video so much. It does a far better job in setting things straight for the audience the propaganda was aimed at in the first place, I think.

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