Nuclear Radiation Misconceptions

Let’s get straight to it:
Myth 1.
Hundreds of thousands of people were killed as a result of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Reality
Approximately 50 emergency workers died as a result of radiation poisoning (known as ARS – Aqute Radiation Syndrome).
A total of 134 emergency workers were diagnosed with ARS.

Approximaely 4,000 children contacted thyroid cancer, and nine children died as a result.
Children are the most susceptable to thyroid cancer because of their large take-up of milk, which contains concentrated radiation, but also because their cells reproduce more rapidly and are therefore more sensitive to radiation poisoning.
Among the general population exposed to the radioactive fallout, the radiation doses were relatively low, and ARS and associatied fatalities did not occur.

The possible increase in cancer mortality due to this radiation exposure may be up to . . . four thousand fatal cancers . . .

However a website based on this report does mention that there could be perhaps another 5,000 fatalaties in surrounding regions.

The italicised section is taken from a report entitled Chernobyl’s Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Aspects, which can be found here

This involved the input of many of all the relevant United Nations organisations, along with others such as the World Health Organisation.

The report does state however that the latent period for many cancers – apart from thyroid cancer and leukemia – is ofter of the order of 10 to 15 years or lmore, therefore there may be some increase in these in the future, but as of yet (data seems to have been collected up until 2002) there is no noticeable increase in other cancers.

Incidentally, how do iodine tablets work in the event of a nuclear accident?
The tablets saturate the thyroid gland with stable iodine in order to prevent it from accumulating any radioactive iodine that may have been released into the environment.
Taken from The Department of Health and Children website here

Myth 2.
Children who were born in this area suffered terrible deformities as a result of the radiation fallout having been passed on through genes. This also applies to children who were born to survivors of the atomic bombs which were dropped in Japan in WWII.

Reality
There has been a modest but steady increase in reported congenital malformations in both ‘contaminated’ and ‘uncontaminated’ areas of Belarus since 1986. This does not appear to be radiation-related and may be the result of increased registration.
Again, this is taken from the report mentioned above.

For information on the Atomic Bomb Survivor Research Program see the FAQ here.
Question 7 in particular is relevant:
What health effects have been seen among the children born to atomic-bomb survivors?
This was one of the earliest concerns in the aftermath of the bombings. Efforts to detect genetic effects were begun in the late 1940s and continue to this day. Thus far, no evidence of genetic effects has been found.

Relevant sources of information
Chernobyl forum FAQ here. This is a fairly user-friendly access point.
There is a nice link here to a CNN news report video clip on the results of the forum (2:30, 17 MB).
Click here for a video (4:30, 30 MB) on how animals were affected.

Now one option on reading this is to question the source of the information, and in this age one is right to be cynical. However if we refuse to accept the word of the organisations involved in this report, where else can we turn?

There are two more issues which haven’t been dealt with here
1. What do the people who were evacuated actually do when they get moved?
2. You can’t really evacuate the population of an island.

To be continued . . .

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