Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations On the Contrary

Fukushima: lightening the darkness for next time

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 30 March 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d1987
  1. Tony Delamothe, deputy editor, BMJ
  1. tdelamothe{at}

The challenge now is to learn as much as possible about the medical effects of radiation

The BMJ’s editorial board met in London last month, but one board member, Ryuki Kassai, wasn’t there. As head of the Department of Community and Family Medicine at Fukushima Medical University he was busy elsewhere. You can read his blogs at and listen to his podcast at about facing the unimaginable triple whammy of earthquake, tsunami, and radiation leak.

Coastal towns near Fukushima now look like Hiroshima after the bomb, and Dr Kassai begins his first blog by quoting the writer Kenzaburo Oe’s Hiroshima Notes, about falling again into the darkness after having once known the light.

What surprised me was Dr Kassai’s claim that high quality, standardised, evidence based information on how to respond was lacking. “We experienced the disasters in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but despite this there are many misunderstandings regarding radiation,” he wrote. “We need information on immediate, short, and long term effects of radiation, and interventions and strategies to alleviate the effects.”

But surely after the atomic bombs in Japan and the radiation leak in Chernobyl there was nothing much left to learn. And then I remembered a session I attended at the annual congress of the International Physicians for …

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