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Why Japan’s crisis causes worry, fear of radiation risk in the U.S.

Published: March 16, 2011
  • Author: Ann MacDonald,


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March 21, 2011

Hello Ann,

I’m glad to be corrected about your lack of scientific knowledge, but all I can say is that you have made my point more strongly than I could have myself.

You’re The Editor of Harvard Health Publishing, but claim to be a mere writer with an (ignorant) opinion. Does Harvard appoint just anyone to such a position, and then fail to monitor what she is saying? I think someone at Harvard who — unlike you — is prepared to be accountable for her or his opinions should apologise for the article and assure us this sort of thing will not happen again.

If keeping risks in perspective was — as you say — the point of your article, you could hardly have done a worse job.

July 21, 2011

Why should she apologize for others’ lack of reading ability? This article was about risk perception. the links included underline this. It is not a statistical paper about radiation levels. The title, the illustration, the content all state this. The other commentators were clearly looking for other information which with a modicum of effort on their part could have been obtained elsewhere, even by clicking on the related links. Perhaps you all were viewing it on your phones and didn’t bother to read fully. Also, the penchant for intellectual stratification is appalling. A “mere” writer isn’t allowed to make informed observances but a scientist can?

M. London
March 21, 2011

Perhaps it would be wise now to follow up with an expert article explaining how distance from Japan to California may lessen the risk and the fears of radiation. I’m sorry to say I do not need laymen writing about radiation or nuclear events.

March 18, 2011

I’m afraid I agree with Delman although I might not have phrased it as such. The thing that bugs me is that you are representing yourself on a Harvard Medical School site and, as such, as some kind of expert and yet the only thing I could take from you brief is that the fear imminates from the “sinister” nature of nuclear power and the potential long term impact on ourselves and our families. This does not, to any extent, explain the irrational fear that is gripping many in the US regarding Japan. The whole thing is presented a bit amateurishly. Not at the level one expects.

March 17, 2011

This is a poor article because it deals with people’s fears without commenting on whether they are groundless or not.

The spectacle of a Harvard scientist admitting her “terror” when she heard there’d been some nuclear emissions on the other side of the world would be merely ludicrous, if it weren’t contributing to the (groundless) terror of others.

Ann MacDonald
March 18, 2011

Hello Delman,

Thanks for writing. Just to clarify: I am not a scientist. If you read my bio, you will see that I am a writer.

I’m all for keeping risks in perspective — that was the point of the post.

Best wishes,


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