Highlights of recent reports on the consequences of the Chernobyl accident on thyroid cancer, leukaemia, effects on children health and birth defects (updated version)

Higlights selected by GreenFacts of two recent publications:

1.     the summary of  the UNSCEAR’s assessments of the radiation effects;


2     The summary report on Recent scientific findings and publications on the health effects of ChernobylWorking Party on Research Implications on Health. RADIATION PROTECTION NO 170 Directorate-General for Energy Directorate D — Nuclear Energy Unit D.4 — Radiation Protection 2011


Short summary . The global conclusions of the UNSCEAR report are that besides the most highly exposed individuals, the great majority of the population, according to the UNSCEAR report, is not likely to experience serious health consequences as a result of radiation from the Chernobyl accident. Many other health problems have been noted in the populations that are not related to radiation exposure.

1.  Consequences for the persons directly exposed Among the 106 patients surviving radiation sickness, complete normalization of health took several years. Many of those patients developed clinically significant radiation-induced cataracts in the first few years after the accident. Over the period 1987-2006, 19 survivors died for various reasons; however, some of these deaths were due to causes not associated with radiation exposure.

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Mobile phone and brain cancer: radiofrequency electromagnetic fields classified by IARC (WHO) as possibly carcinogenic to humans.

mobile phone

Highlights summarized by GreenFacts of the IARC classification and of the Interphone study, update of  Nov 2011.

On May 31, 2011 the WHO/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B)[2] , based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, associated with wireless mobile phone (or cell phone) use.


The evidence was reviewed critically, and overall evaluated as being limited among users of wireless mobile telephones for glioma and acoustic neuroma, and inadequate to draw conclusions for other types of cancers. The evidence from the environmental exposures mentioned above was similarly judged inadequate. The Working Group did not quantitate the risk; however, one study of past mobile or cell phone use (up to the year 2004), showed a 40% increased risk for gliomas in the highest category of heavy users (reported average: 30 minutes per day over a 10‐year period).

This has relevance for public health, says the report, particularly for users of mobile phones, as the number of users is large and growing, particularly among young adults and children.

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Potential health risks of the Japanese nuclear accident : what happened in Chernobyl

The Scientific Facts on the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident were reported in a leading scientific consensus report produced in 2006 by the UN Chernobyl Forum: “Chernobyl’s legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts

The Digest  produced by GreenFacts is a faithful summary of this report written in an accessible language:


In brief,  confusion about the impact of the accident has given rise to highly exaggerated claims that tens or even hundreds of thousands of people have died as a result of the accident. In fact, says the report, a much smaller death toll can be directly attributable to Chernobyl radiation. Twenty-eight emergency workers died from acute radiation syndrome, 15 patients died from thyroid cancer, and it is roughly estimated that the total number of deaths from cancers caused by Chernobyl may reach 4000 among the 600 000 people having received the greastest exposures.

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