34 Years Since the Chernobyl Disaster

Let’s not forget that on April 26 1986 one of the nuclear reactors in Chernobyl was accidentally destroyed. The radioactive cloud reached the Soviet Union, the territories which are nowadays Belarus, Ukraine, and the Russian Federation.

The Woman Post | Catalina Mejía

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Approximately 8.4 people in the three countries were exposed to radiation. According to official reports, 31 people died directly during the incident and 600,000 clean-up workers that helped to cease the fire and to clear up the site were exposed to high levels of radiation.

According to the European Journal of Cancer, there is only proof of one health consequence that was caused by exposure to radiation. There was a dramatic increase in childhood thyroid cancer, with approximately 1800 cases in the three countries from 1990 to 1998. However, the American Journal of Psychiatry has mentioned that long-term mental effects might have taken place, particularly for mothers with small children that inhabited the áreas affected by the disaster. Also, two systematic studies have reported elevated levels of psychological affliction among the affected population and especially women.

However, the only consequences were not those suffered by humans. Moller and Mousseau investigated some of the biological consequences of the incident and reported in August 2006 that there have been some associations between levels of radiation and the abundance, distribution, life history, and mutation rates of plants and animals.

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For instance, their study revealed that Hirundo rustica birds in the contaminated areas, during the 2000s decade showed reduced amounts f carotenoids and vitamins A and E in blood and liver, when contrasted with birds in control areas. Research has demonstrated that antioxidants may cause severe consequences because of their immunostimulating effects. The frequency of albinism among Hirundo rustica birds from the affected region also increased and this could be related to a lack of antioxidants.

Scientists have claimed that more money is still needed for research to learn more about the health effects of the accident, but according to Greenpeace International, the consequences of Chernobyl are latent and there are still many people at risk who are exposed to the dangers of the disaster. According to official data, there are still many forest fires that take place yearly in the contaminated areas, where there are still 5 million inhabitants. It is clear that we haven’t seen all of the effects of Chernobyl yet and the accident will continue affecting coming generations as well as the environment.

Today we should reflect on the many lessons from Chernobyl, and the current pandemic which demonstrates how important it is to coordinate international involvement in a way that benefits the regions which are directly affected but also the rest of the world. This, bearing in mind that we should try to prevent future disasters and to improve our capacity for dealing with the consequences of those that have already taken place.

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