April 26, 1986 is a date that will forever be known in history as the date of the world’s worst nuclear accident; the Chernobyl explosion. On this date, one of the main reactors in Chernobyl’s power station, located in Ukraine, exploded (pictured above), releasing radioactive material into the air not only in Ukraine, but even as far as Sweden. As a result of this massive amount of radiation in the air, at least 100,000 people died due to health complications associated with the radiation; adding to the thirty-eight people who were killed instantaneously when the reactor exploded.
In this article shown in The Current Digest of the Russian Press, the Vice-President of the USSR Academy of Medicine reflected on the health effects that were being seen even one year after the accident. In this he is asked about the people who were subject to large amounts of radiation during the accident. With this he states,
“Two people perished during the accident itself…28 people with extensive radiation burns could not be saved…13 people have received disability classifications of varying degrees and will have to undergo repeated plastic surgery because of radiation burns to the skin.”
L.A. Ilyin, Vice-President of the USSR Academy of Medicine
According to the World Health Organization, there are many negative side effects related to health and a persons proximity to the explosion. One of the first is the increase in thyroid cancer that has been found in many people who were children at the time of the explosion, living close to Chernobyl. In their study they reported “in Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine nearly 5,000 cases of thyroid cancer have now been diagnosed to date among children who were aged up to 18 years at the time of the accident.” The chart below shows just how greatly the younger generation, at the time of the incident, is being effected now.
Additionally, the report also makes note of the fact that “the production of cataracts is directly related to the dose [of radiation].” Both of these increases are accompanied by the findings of an increased risk for things such as cardiovascular disease, a variety of different non-thyroid cancers and negative psychological effects (for those who were associated with the incident). Thus, as we can see, while the immediate aftershock of the Chernobyl explosion was great, the long term health effects are equally as significant.
BBC News, “The Chernobyl Disaster,” BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/guides/456900/456957/html/nn4page1.stm
“Chernobyl Blast Zone,” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, (Soviet History MSU, 1986), http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1985-2/meltdown-in-chernobyl/meltdown-in-chernobyl-images/#bwg206/1016
Lewis Siegalbaum, “Meltdown in Chernobyl,” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, (Soviet History MSU, 1985), http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1985-2/meltdown-in-chernobyl/
V. Romanenko, “Chernobyl One Year Later,” The Current Digest of the Russian Press, (The Current Digest of the Russian Press No. 17, Vol. 39, 1987), https://dlib-eastview-com.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu/browse/doc/19996166?searchLink=%2Fsearch%2Fsimple
World Health Organization, “Health Effects of the Chernobyl Accident: An Overview,” World Health Organization, (WHO, 2006), http://www.who.int/ionizing_radiation/chernobyl/backgrounder/en/