Relative risks

While there continues to be headline after headline about the nuclear power plant that received the brunt of an historic earthquake and tsunami, such things as Japan’s effort to find the bodies of 12,000 missing citizens and other disaster recovery efforts take a back seat.

The debris created by the tsunami is massive with Hawaii and California anticipating large islands on their shores due to ocean currents. Another aspect of that debris is the subject of a story at CBS News: Asbestos, Japan tsunami’s other hidden danger.

Inside the chunks of slate and wallboard smashed and scattered by Japan’s tsunami hides a health risk that has been overshadowed by contamination from a leaking nuclear plant: the odorless and nearly invisible threat of asbestos.

Activists have found the cancer-causing, fibrous material in the air and debris collected from the devastated northeastern coast.

Activists? Now the anti-nuclear activists are fading and the asbestos activists are rising?

The honest perspective is a rationale assessment of risks. The nuclear risk is easily detected, contained, and localized. The risks from the debris field of the tsunami are much the opposite as they are widespread, poorly defined, and often difficult to detect. The clean-up effort not only risks harm ranging from direct injury to infection like tetanus from stepping on a nail, they also face biological and chemical hazards.

Meanwhile, most headlines are on the paranoia side, i.e. nuclear, where there has been no death or illness, and the tens of thousands dead and the massive clean-up effort with its risks just gets an occasional mention. There is a warning here for those seeking reality.

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