The Environmentalist

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 144–156 | Cite as

The similar effects of low-dose ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation from background environmental levels of exposure

  • Cindy SageEmail author


The meltdown and release of radioactivity (ionizing radiation) from four damaged nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Nuclear Facility in Japan in March 2011 continues to contaminate air and ocean water even 1 year later. Chronic exposure to low-dose ionizing radiation will occur over large populations well into the future. This has caused grave concern among researchers and the public over the very long period of time expected for decommissioning alone (current estimate from official sources is 30–40 years based on TEPCO in Mid-and long-term roadmap towards the decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power units 1–4, 2011) and the presumed adverse effects of chronic, low-dose ionizing radiation on children, adults and the environment. Ultimately, radioactive materials from Fukushima will circulate for many years, making health impacts a predictable concern for many generations (Yasunari et al. in PNAS 108(49):19530–19534, 2011). There is long-standing scientific evidence to suggest that low-dose ionizing radiation (LD-IR) and low-intensity non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation (LI-NIER) in the form of extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields and radiofrequency radiation (RFR) share similar biological effects. Public health implications are significant for reconstruction efforts to rebuild in post-Fukushima Japan. It is relevant to identify and reduce exposure pathways for chronic, low-dose ionizing radiation in post-Fukushima Japan given current scientific knowledge. Intentional planning, rather than conventional planning, is needed to reduce concomitant chronic low-intensity exposure to non-ionizing radiation. These are reasonably well-established risks to health in the scientific literature, as evidenced by their classification by World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer as Possible Human Carcinogens. Reducing preventable, adverse health exposures in the newly rebuilt environment to both LD-IR and LI-NIER is an achievable goal for Japan. Recovery and reconstruction efforts in Japan to restore the communications and energy infrastructure, in particular, should pursue strategies for reduction and/or prevention of both kinds of exposures. The design life of buildings replaced today is probably 35–50 years into the future. Cumulative health risks may be somewhat mitigated if the double exposure (to both chronic low-dose IR from the Fukushima reactors and LI-NIER [EMF and RFR] in new buildings and infrastructure) can be dealt with effectively in early planning and design in Japan’s reconstruction.


Low-dose ionizing radiation Background levels Non-ionizing radiation Free radical DNA damage Public health policy Health risk reduction Precautionary action 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sage AssociatesSanta BarbaraUSA

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