No one has been killed or sickened by the radiation — a point confirmed last month by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Even among Fukushima workers, the number of additional cancer cases in coming years is expected to be so low as to be undetectable, a blip impossible to discern against the statistical background noise.
But about 1,600 people died from the stress of the evacuation — one that some scientists believe was not justified by the relatively moderate radiation levels at the Japanese nuclear plant.
People were removed from intensive care units to high schools. Nursing home residents were evacuated. And some people just killed themselves out of fear.
I remember watching a lot of friends and acquaintances obsess over the radiation threat, even as people were actually dying from the tsunamis and (as it turns out) from evacuation-related trauma. They were merely observers, but that attitude seems to be the same as the one at work in Japan at the time.
We really need a better-calibrated sense of the dangers of radiation.
EDIT: Oliver Lacan reminded me of this pertinent chart.