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New Book Concludes: Chernobyl death toll: 985,000, mostly from cancer

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"Areas of North America were contaminated from the first, most powerful explosion, which lifted a cloud of radionuclides to a height of more than 10 km. Some 1% of all Chernobyl nuclides," says the book, "fell on North America."

The consequences on public health are extensively analyzed. Medical records involving children--the young, their cells more rapidly multiplying, are especially affected by radioactivity--are considered. Before the accident, more than 80% of the children in the territories of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia extensively contaminated by Chernobyl "were healthy," the book reports, based on health data. But "today fewer than 20% are well."

There is an examination of genetic impacts with records reflecting an increase in "chromosomal aberrations" wherever there was fallout. This will continue through the "children of irradiated parents for as many as seven generations." So "the genetic consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe will impact hundreds of millions of people."

As to deaths, the list of countries and consequences begins with Belarus. "For the period 1990-2000 cancer mortality in Belarus increased 40%," it states, again based on medical data and illuminated by tables in the book. "The increase was a maximum in the most highly contaminated Gomel Province and lower in the less contaminated Brest and Mogilev provinces." They include childhood cancers, thyroid cancer, leukemia and other cancers.

Considering health data of people in all nations impacted by the fallout, the "overall mortality for the period from April 1986 to the end of 2004 from the Chernobyl catastrophe was estimated as 985,000 additional deaths."

Further, "the concentrations" of some of the poisons, because they have radioactive half-lives ranging from 20,000 to 200,000 years, "will remain practically the same virtually forever."

The book also examines the impact on plants and animals. "Immediately after the catastrophe, the frequency of plant mutations in the contaminated territories increased sharply."

There are photographs of some of these plant mutations. "Chernobyl irradiation has caused many structural anomalies and tumorlike changes in many plant species and has led to genetic disorders, sometimes continuing for many years," it says. "Twenty-three years after the catastrophe it is still too early to know if the whole spectrum of plant radiogenic changes has been discerned. We are far from knowing all of the consequences for flora resulting from the catastrophe."
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As to animals, the book notes "serious increases in morbidity and mortality that bear striking resemblance to changes in the public health of humans--increasing tumor rates, immunodeficiencies, and decreasing life expectancy."

In one study it is found that "survival rates of barn swallows in the most contaminated sites near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant are close to zero. In areas of moderate contamination, annual survival is less than 25%." Research is cited into ghastly abnormalities in barn swallows that do hatch: "two heads, two tails."

"In 1986," the book states, "the level of irradiation in plants and animals in Western Europe, North America, the Arctic, and eastern Asia were sometimes hundreds and even thousands of times above acceptable norms."

In its final chapter, the book declares that the explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear plant "was the worst technogenic accident in history." And it examines "obstacles" to the reporting of the true consequences of Chernobyl with a special focus on "organizations associated with the nuclear industry" that "protect the industry first--not the public." Here, the IAEA and WHO are charged.

The book ends by quoting U.S. President John F. Kennedy's call in 1963 for an end of atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons."The Chernobyl catastrophe," it declares, "demonstrates that the nuclear industry's willingness to risk the health of humanity and our environment with nuclear power plants will result, not only theoretically, but practically, in the same level of hazard as nuclear weapons."
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Dr. Sherman, speaking of the IAEA's and WHO's dealing with the impacts of Chernobyl, commented: "It's like Dracula guarding the blood bank." The 1959 agreement under which WHO "is not to be independent of the IAEA" but must clear any information it obtains on issues involving radioactivity with the IAEA has put "the two in bed together."

Of her reflections on 14 months editing the book, she said: "Every single system that was studied--whether human or wolves or livestock or fish or trees or mushrooms or bacteria--all were changed, some of them irreversibly. The scope of the damage is stunning."

In his foreword, Dr. Dimitro Grodzinsky, chairman of the Ukranian National Commission on Radiation Protection, writes about how "apologists of nuclear power" sought to hide the real impacts of the Chernobyl disaster from the time when the accident occurred. The book "provides the largest and most complete collection of data concerning the negative consequences of Chernobyl on the health of people and the environment...The main conclusion of the book is that it is impossible and wrong "to forget Chernobyl.'"

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www.karlgrossman.com

Karl Grossman is a professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury and host of the nationally syndicated TV program Enviro Close-Up.

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