LLRC Journal Radioactive Times. Vol.4 No 2

Radioactive Times. Vol.4 No 2

New Israeli study backs up gagged Belarusian researcher

The British Medical Journal has reported 1 a new study of children from the Chernobyl region which highlights the radiation sensitivity of the human foetus. The strong relationship found between morbidity and levels of contamination supports earlier findings by Belarusian researchers who have since fallen foul of their Government.

Since 1990 the Chabad Children of Chernobyl programme has been evacuating Jewish children from Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of the Russian Federation to live permanently in Israel. The study has looked at 1080 of these children aged 5 to 15. The lead researchers were Professor Alf Fischbein, Director of the Selikoff Centre for Environmental Health and Human Development in Ra’anana, Israel, and Dr Yogesh Choudhri, an epidemiologist from India and consultant to the World Health Organisation and US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. They presented results to a Singapore conference on occupational and environmental health in September.

The study showed that children aged less than 1 year when the accident happened (April 1986) were the worst affected, but children born after the disaster have suffered more than those who were aged over 1 year at the time. Children born in the year before the disaster had about a 2.2 times higher risk of thyroid disease than older children. But the high risk (about 1.4 times higher) persisted for the children born after 1986. For lymphadenopathy the increased risk was about 1.5 times higher for children born after the disaster than for those aged 1 year or more at the time. The study shows that the longer the children had remained in the contaminated areas, the sicker they became, and the higher was their risk of developing goitre, thyroid cancer, gastrointestinal and lymph disorders, and autoimmune diseases. Over 13% of the children had signs and symptoms of liver and gallbladder disease, and 11% suffered from glandular and lymph disease; chronic tonsillitis was diagnosed in almost 19%. Goitre (commonly a precursor of thyroid cancer and autoimmune thyroid diseases) was diagnosed in 17.6% of the children, with the highest rate (29.4%) in children from the highly contaminated Gomel region. The finding of a strong association between morbidity and not only the levels of contamination in the areas where children lived but also how long they had lived there supports results published by the Gomel State Medical Institute in Belarus.

Between 1995 and 1998 Professor Yury Bandazhevsky, who until last year was Rector of the Institute, edited and contributed to three books of research. He and his colleagues found a wide range of subtle health effects correlating with variations in radiation levels both in the environment and in the bodies of the students they were examining. The findings are, therefore, robust and unequivocal evidence that the cause of the region's long-term health problems is the radiation.

Belarus gags Chernobyl researcher

Last year Bandazhevsky lost his job at the Medical Institute, was imprisoned, and had his computers and research papers confiscated. His offence was to condemn state- funded research into the health effects of Chernobyl. In a report which LLRC has seen he wrote that the Institute of Radiation Medicine (part of the Belarus Ministry of Health) had wasted billions of roubles on projects which are finding nothing new and which will contribute nothing to the overall aim of reducing radiation exposures and their impact on health.

Following his adoption by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience he was released in December, but he is under surveillance and still faces trial.

"Business as usual"

The Belarus President Aleksander Lukashenko is anxious to forget about Chernobyl and let people return to the contaminated regions.
His "business as usual" line is finding some support in the west. Dr Alan Flowers is a physicist at Kingston University who studies radioecology in Belarus. Speaking of the recommencement of farming in areas contaminated by the Chernobyl disaster, Flowers said in an interview last year: ... I wouldn't propose bringing people back to live in these areas yet but I don't see any difficulties in returning the land there to agriculture.

The Flowers interview and a dissenting view are in full on the Belarusians in Great Britain website at http://home.clara.net/skaryna/chernobyl/file1.htm


The three books edited by Prof Yu. I. Bandazhevsky have been smuggled out of Belarus and LLRC has copies: Clinical and Experimental Aspects of the Effect of Incorporated Radionuclides upon the Organism;
Gomel 1995
Structural and Functional Effects of Radioisotopes Incorporated by the Organism,
Gomel 1997
Pathophysiology of Incorporated Radioactive Emission;
Gomel 1998.
They are in English and we can supply them on request for the cost of photocopying. We also have Professor Bandazhevsky's critique of the State research programme in French.

LLRC has not been able to find reference to peer reviewed publication of the Israeli study, but will try to keep track of this.

See also this link to fresh news (July 2001)


References

BMJ 2000; 321:918 (14 October)


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