[ RadSafe ] HPA Press release on the Consequences of the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident

Dawson, Fred Mr Fred.Dawson199 at mod.uk
Tue Apr 25 07:49:42 CDT 2006

HPA Press Statement

The Consequences of the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident
The 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident on 26th April has
produced a number of papers, articles and claims about the health
effects of the accident both here in the UK and in Eastern Europe. The
estimates of the number of health effects caused by radiation exposure
from the accident vary widely, from a few thousand to hundreds of
thousands of deaths. 

Three people died immediately as a result of the accident and a further
twenty eight died within a few weeks as a direct result of acute
radiation doses1. They were staff working at the Chernobyl nuclear power
station at the time and staff from the emergency services, particularly
the fire service.  Nineteen more of these emergency workers died during
the period 1987 to 2004 from various causes. There is also an increase
in the incidence of thyroid cancer in people who were children in 1986,
including those in utero at the time of the accident. At present over
4000 cases of thyroid cancer have arisen in Belarus, the Ukraine and
parts of Russia, most of which can be attributed to exposure of the
thyroid gland by radioactive iodine isotopes from Chernobyl2. This
condition is fatal in only about 1% of cases but it is nevertheless a
serious health effect; people affected need to take medication for the
rest of their lives.  

Predictions of increases in the incidence of cancer in general, and of
other illnesses that might have resulted from exposures to radionuclides
from Chernobyl, are subject to large uncertainties and can therefore be
contentious. These uncertainties are at their greatest when attempting
to estimate the number of excess cancer cases attributable to very low
radiation doses received by very large numbers of people. A wide range
of estimates have been reported in recent weeks using various risk
factors and differing methods of calculation. The most reliable recent
evidence comes from Elisabeth Cardis and colleagues published in the
International Journal of Cancer3. We reproduce a summary table of their
predictions below and the uncertainties inherent in making such
predictions are discussed in detail in the paper and in a recent

Estimates of Health Effects from Chernobyl 
(from http://www.iarc.fr/chernobyl/IARCBriefingChernobyl.pdf )

Population 	Approximate size of population 	Mean cumulative whole
body dose (mSv) 	Predicted excess numbers of cancer deaths
Predicted % of cancer deaths due to radiation in the population
Chernobyl clean-up workers, evacuees and residents of strict control
zones 	600,000 	66 	4,000 	3.5% 	Cardis et al, 1996;
cited in UN Chernobyl Forum2	
Chernobyl clean-up workers, evacuees and residents of strict control
zones and persons living in "contaminated areas" 	~6,000,000
14 	9,000 	0.9% 	Cardis et al, 1996; cited in UN Chernobyl Forum2

Europe 	~570,000,000 	0.5 	16,000 	0.01% 	Cardis et al, 20063	


1.      UNSCEAR (2000). United Nations Scientific committee on the
Effects of Atomic Radiation. 2000 Report to the General Assembly. Volume
II Effects (New York, UN)
2.      WHO (2006). Health Effects of the Chernobyl Accident and Special
Health Care Programmes. A report of the UN Chernobyl  Forum. Expert
Group "Health". (Geneva UN). See
3.      Cardis E et al (2006). Estimates of the Cancer Burden in Europe
from Radioactive Fallout from the Chernobyl Accident. Int. J. Cancer. 
4.      Cardis E et al (2006).  Cancer consequences of the Chernobyl
accident: 20 years on. J. Radiol. Prot. 26, 127-140.

25 April 2006
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Web site: http://www.hpa.org.uk 

Fred Dawson
Fwp_dawson at hotmail.com

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