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Radiophobia is an abnormal fear of ionizing radiation, also used in the sense of fear of X-rays. The term is used in several related senses: in reference to a neurological disorder, to a specific phobia, and (polemically, not medically) to general opposition to the use of nuclear energy.

Fear of ionizing radiation is not unnatural, since it can pose significant risks; however this fear may become abnormal and even irrational, often owing to poor information or understanding, but also as a consequence of traumatic experience.

Radiophobia and Chernobyl

In the former Soviet Union many patients with radioactive sickness after the Chernobyl disaster were accused of radiophobia[1], perhaps in attempts to diminish the scale of the consequences. These claims were supported in some reports of experts from International Atomic Energy Agency. At the same time, radiophobia (in the sense of an excessive fear of radiation) existed widely amongst the affected population, for the very reason that people believed that the government was lying and seriously understating the degree of danger. Lyubov Sirota, the author of Chernobyl Poems wrote in her poem, Radiophobia:

Is this only - a fear of radiation?
Perhaps rather - a fear of wars?
Perhaps - the dread of betrayal,
Cowardice, stupidity, lawlessness?

At the same time, medical experts investigating the psychological consequences of Chernobyl have presented evidence indicating that certain psychoneurological symptoms, manifesting themselves in fatigue, sleep disturbances, impaired memory, etc., (i.e., similar to those of chronic fatigue syndrome), appeared to have no direct correlation to the dose of radiation received, or to the level of contamination of the area of residence.

Radiophobia as a term in the atomic energy debate

Attempts to downplay the danger of radiation by stigmatizing the opponents of nuclear plants and nuclear tests with the label of "phobiacs" took place in the USA[citation needed].

Today the term "radiophobia" is polemically applied to the arguments of proponents of the LNT concept (Linear no-threshold response model for ionizing radiation) of radiation security proposed by the U.S. National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) in 1949. The "no-threshold" position effectively assumes that even negligible doses of radiation may pose danger. The issue remains controversial.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Radiophobia". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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