[ RadSafe ] Correspondence: Don't underestimate the death rate from Chernoby

John Jacobus crispy_bird at yahoo.com
Wed Oct 19 15:43:26 CDT 2005

Correspondence from Nature 437, 1089 (20 October 2005)

"As we approach the twentieth anniversary of the
Chernobyl disaster we should be sensitive to the
long-term implications."  T. A. Mousseau and

Don't underestimate the death rate from Chernoby
Timothy A. Mousseau(1), Neal Nelson(2) and V.

(1)School of the Environment, University of South
Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina 29208, USA
(2)8102 Ashton Birch Drive, Springfield, Virginia
22152, USA
(3) Radioecology Centre of the Ukrainian National
Academy of Sciences, Kyiv 01054, Ukraine

Your News story "Chernobyl: poverty and stress pose
'bigger threat' than radiation" (Nature 437, 181;
2005) suggests that the health and environmental
effects of the Chernobyl accident were not as great as
originally suggested.

Writing on behalf of an international group of
researchers in this area (see
we believe that these suggestions, based on the
reports of the UN Chernobyl Forum, are misleading.

The full estimate, given by the UN report, of people
who could eventually die of factors linked to
radiation includes people in other contaminated areas
as well as those within Soviet Contaminated Zones and
is 9,335, not 4,000 as reported. This estimate is
similar to earlier estimates of future cancer
mortality prepared by the US government in December
1987 (Report on the Accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear
Power Station, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission,
Washington DC). Further details to support our
argument that neither of these estimates should be
down played are available at the website above.

We believe it is too early to assess the overall
impacts of radionuclide exposure on human health or on
plant and animal populations. In particular, we do not
know all the possible consequences of the
multi-generational accumulation of genetic defects. As
we approach the twentieth anniversary of the Chernobyl
disaster we should be more sensitive to the long-term
implications rather than suggesting that the coast is
clear for redevelopment in the contaminated zones.

Up to now, most studies have focused on cancer,
because of funding constraints, with little investment
in studies of non-cancer morbidity or model systems.
But model organisms with relatively short lifespans
may provide a clear picture of the multigenerational
consequences for human health, while humans exposed to
Chernobyl are a unique population that must be
supported and observed far into the future.

Given the long latency period for many diseases and
the growing interest in rejuvenating the nuclear power
industry, it is imperative that studies of the
affected populations continue.

On Oct. 5, 1947, in the first televised White House address, President Truman asked Americans to refrain from eating meat on Tuesdays and poultry on Thursdays to help stockpile grain for starving people in Europe. 

-- John
John Jacobus, MS
Certified Health Physicist
e-mail:  crispy_bird at yahoo.com

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