Long-term radiation risks lower than some daily hazards, study finds

Living in fear of a nuclear meltdown? Now you can relax! A new study says the long-term risks faced by survivors of two of the world’s most notorious nuclear episodes — the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and the 1945 bombings of Japan — are lower than the risks caused by urban air pollution, obesity, and smoking. For instance, the study found, while radiation exposure at Chernobyl may mean a 1 percent chance of contracting cancer later in life, living with a smoker increases mortality 1.7 percent. Those still living near the doomed reactor might have “a lower health risk from radiation than … if they were exposed to air pollution in a large city, such as nearby Kiev,” says study author Jim Smith of Britain’s Center for Ecology and Hydrology. “Our understandable fear of radiation needs to be placed in the context of other risks we encounter in our daily lives” to help shape the response to future incidents, he says. Some say it’s not a fair comparison, but we say — hang on, gotta light this butt.