Thursday, March 09, 2006

Chernobyl Report misses many deaths

A report for the UN, ‘Chernobyl’s Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts,’ produced 20 years on the accident by the Chernobyl Forum, involving over 100 experts from eight UN agencies including the WHO and the governments of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, claims 4,000 deaths will probably ultimately be attributable to the accident in April 1986.

It is much fewer than some previous estimates.

Greenpeace International said that the ‘headline’ conclusions in a summary by the International Atomic Energy Agency (one of the Forum), were not substantiated by the full report, which they says contradicts them. "Often research has been omitted and where scientific uncertainty exists, the conclusion is simply that there is no impact. A more careful reading of the 600-page report, as well as previously published research by UN-bodies, leads to very different conclusions." They point out that:
  • WHO refers to a study on 72,000 Russian workers of whom 212 died as the result of radiation. In fact, the total number of ‘liquidators’ (in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine) is estimated at some 600,000

  • The 4,000 deaths only relates to a studied population of 600,000 in the Chernobyl region, whereas radiation spread over most of Europe.

The IAEA tries to make strict distinction between health impacts attributable to radiation and health impacts attributable to stress, social situation etc. But WHO refers to numerous reports which indicate an impact of radiation on the immune system, causing a wide range of health effects.

Greenpeace says an approach based on epidemiology can become very problematic when expanded to cover the whole of Europe. They have more confidence in an approach which assumes that there is a linear relationship between radiation dose and effect, without a threshold, which means that even a very low dose can still produce significant impacts. They claim that, for Chernobyl ‘this leads to estimates in the range of 10 to hundreds of thousands of casualties'.

Dr Rosalie Bertell (WISE Nuclear Monitor 634 noted that, in any case, it wasn’t just deaths, but also major illnesses that worried people.

The Children of Chernobyl charity said they put more reliance on ‘the senior doctors in charge of the hospitals closest to the accident’ who were ‘reporting increased rates of bowel and breast cancer and an increasing rate of spontaneous abortions,’ and ‘the findings of the Clinical Institute of Radiation Medicine in Minsk, which show that the cancer rate has risen in Belarus by 40 % between 1990 and 2000. In the highly contaminated Gomel region, this figure is 55%’.

As the 20th anniversary of the accident approaches, let's see more awareness of the awful legacy of the worst accident in the world, a nuclear accident, and hope this eventually leads to an end to nuclear power in Europe.

Technorati Tags: ; ; ; ;

No comments: