This study examined the differential effect of age on coping and psychological measures among immigrants from Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to Israel. Some of these immigrants originated in the Republics adjacent to the Chernobyl Power Plant, site of the 1986 accident. The sample consisted of 708 immigrants who were interviewed between the years 1993-1995 with an average age of 47.5 (sd 11.8). This sample was reinterviewed approximately a year and three months later (n = 520). The sample included two exposure groups--high exposed and low exposed based on the estimated levels of ground cesium contamination from the IAEA maps and a comparison group matched by age, gender, and year of immigration. Those over the age of sixty-five were disadvantaged, compared to those aged fifty to sixty-four, and younger, when it came to the tasks of immigrant absorption; learning the language, working and acquiring an income, and establishing alternative social networks which could offer support in times of illness. The psychological variables showed that over time, somatization, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms related to Chernobyl improved, however at a much slower pace for older immigrants (aged 55 and over) compared to younger ones.
The impact of the world's worst nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in 1986 is reviewed within a framework of a triad of fear, rumour and truth. The scope of the accident, Soviet secrecy about it, and the lack of general awareness of, or disregard for, the effects of radiation created a fertile ground for persistent fears and rumours attributing any health problem to Chernobyl. Scientifically correct answers to health issues have been the means to combat disinformation, and to replace interconnected fears, misconceptions and rumours. To date, according to the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) 2000 Report, based on a review of epidemiological and radiobiological studies, the main radiation-related effect of the Chernobyl accident is an increased risk of childhood thyroid cancer. In addition, the accident has had serious non-radiation-related psychological consequences on the residents of the contaminated territories, resettled populations and clean-up workers. Researchers in search of the truth through epidemiological reasoning are facing serious challenges which are reviewed within this article.
The Chernobyl nuclear accident of 1986 released large quantities of radioactive material causing heavy contamination in widespread areas of the former Soviet Union. Each summer, several hundred children visit Spain from Chernobyl. In this article we describe the accident, the environmental contamination, the mechanisms of radiation injury and the dose-response relationships. We review the health effects of exposure to ionizing radiation and the health impact of the Chernobyl catastrophe. We propose guidelines for the medical management and evaluation of children on temporary visits.The health status of adults and especially that of children in Belarus, Ukraine and the Russian Federation has been adversely affected. According to present knowledge, Chernobyl has given rise to a marked increase in the incidence of papillary thyroid cancer, psychological consequences and socioeconomic disruption. Many studies report that the incidence of other diseases has increased, but not all health problems seen after the nuclear accident can be attributed to radiation. Given the long latency period for diseases induced by radiation exposure, long-term follow-up of all potentially affected individuals is important. Fifteen years after the Chernobyl accident the international community is still learning scientific, medical and humanitarian lessons.
Results are described of a general health survey (n = 3044) that was conducted 6.5 years after the Chernobyl accident in 1986 in a seriously contaminated region in Belarus and a socioeconomically comparable, but unaffected, region in the Russian Federation. The purpose of the study was to investigate whether there are differences in the general health status of the inhabitants of the two regions that may be attributed to the Chernobyl disaster. A broad-based population sample from each of these regions was studied using a variety of self-report questionnaires. A subsample (n = 449) was further examined with a standardized physical and psychiatric examination. The results show significantly higher scores on the self-report questionnaires and higher medical service utilization in the exposed region. No significant differences were observed in global clinical indices of health. Although there were trends for some disorders to be more prevalent in the exposed region, none of these could be directly attributed to exposure to ionizing radiation. The results of this study suggest that the Chernobyl disaster had a significant long-term impact on psychological well-being, health-related quality of life, and illness behavior in the exposed population.
This article reviews the health effects of the Chernobyl accident. The clearest effect to be seen to date is the dramatic increase in thyroid cancer in children. The evidence for increased leukaemia is less clear, but there are indications of increased leukaemia incidence in Russian clean-up workers. There is also evidence of increases in breast cancer, cataract and cardiovascular disease. However, to date the largest public health problem caused by the accident is the mental health impact.
The consumption of food is an important pathway involved in the internal contamination of humans. The site-related critical foodstuffs can be grouped into three main categories: dairy products; aquatic animals, such as fish, molluscs and crustaceans; and other typical foods. The concentration factor plays a more important role than the amount of a certain food consumed. Semi-natural and natural ecosystems are of special interest in this context because they can provide critical pathways for radionuclide transfer to humans, and they can also act as temporary sinks or long-term sources for radionuclides deposited from the atmosphere. From the viewpoint of population health, another important role is played by the countermeasures. The reference values commonly adopted in radiation protection are conservative and they have been established for planning practices that could provide future sources of irradiation. After a large release of radionuclides, the evaluation of the problem must be as realistic as possible, otherwise the countermeasures will imply consequences worse than those produced by the accident itself (without any further intervention). This criterion was clearly stated by the International Commission on Radiological Protection but it was frequently neglected after the Chernobyl accident. The results of a survey on the number of induced abortions following this incident are reported. These suggest that moral and ethical problems are involved above and beyond any economical implications.
This chapter discusses the events that led to the contamination of environments with the long-lived radionuclides of caesium, strontium and other elements, and to the internal exposure of populations living in contaminated areas. Among these events are radioactive releases into the river Techa from the Soviet nuclear weapons facility Mayak in 1949-1956, thermonuclear weapons tests in the 1950s and 1960s, the Kyshtim and Windscale accidents in 1957, and the Chernobyl and Tomsk-7 accidents in 1986 and 1993, respectively. Methods of environmental monitoring and individual internal dose monitoring of inhabitants are described. These are based on measuring the content of radionuclides not only in the air, drinking water and local food products, but also in humans using whole-body counters and analysing excreta and autopsy samples. The dynamics of internal exposure of people of different ages to radionuclides of caesium, strontium and plutonium from the environment are considered. Examples of radionuclide distributions in the environment, and of individual/collective internal doses and related medical effects are presented.
During the past 6 years, immigration to Israel of 700,000 persons from the former Soviet Union (FSU) included about 140,000 from radiocontaminated regions of Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia near Chernobyl. In Beer Sheva, a major center for immigrant absorption in Israel, a primary objective was to evaluate their health status and to refer them for care. 137Cs levels in 1228 men, women, and children were measured with a portable whole-body counter. Whole-body counts showed clear correlation with the degree of 137Cs ground contamination in previous regions of residence. The population could thus be sub-divided according to degree of exposure, based on previous regions of residence. The thyroid status of 300 local immigrant children was evaluated because of the increased risk of childhood thyroid cancer in the regions from which they came. This group was subdivided into comparative groups of children who came from less and more contaminated areas according to the International Atomic Energy Agency soil 137Cs contamination maps. Enlarged thyroids were found in about 40% of both groups. One 12-year-old girl from Gomel had a malignant papillary carcinoma. Thyroid-stimulating hormone levels, though within normal limits, were significantly greater (p
Insofar as international conferences reflect the state of development of the subject under discussion, they provide an opportunity to question, at a rather fundamental level, the direction of and progress in the subject. With regard to the effects of radiation on health, many of the problems faced today, including uncertainties in the relationship between risk and dose and the origins of the psychosocial phenomena associated with many aspects of environmental radiation exposure, arise from a lack of adequate frameworks within which to understand the radiopathological impact of radiation exposure and the psychological and social implications of such exposures. It is concluded that in seeking an understanding of the relationship of health effects to exposure, through the underlying radiobiological processes, the perturbation of the dynamic interactions within the components of the organism should receive more emphasis. The public perception of risk from environmental radiation exposures appears to encompass factors in addition to the accrued health detriment. It is argued that the radiological protection of the public might be seen more beneficially in the context of other environmental risks.
This study examined psychological development in 138 children at the age of 6-7 and 10-11 years, who had suffered prenatal radiation exposure at the time of the Chernobyl accident in 1986. These children were compared to a control group of 122 children of the same age from noncontaminated areas of Belarus. The examination included neurological and psychiatric examination, intellectual assessment, and clinical psychological investigation of parents as well as the estimation of thyroid exposure in utero. The exposed group manifested a relative increase in psychological impairment compared with the control group, with increased prevalence in cases of specific developmental speech-language disorders (18.1% vs. 8.2% at 6-7 years; 10.1% vs. 3.3% at 10-11 years) and emotional disorders (20.3% vs. 7.4% at 6-7 years; 18.1 vs. 7.4% at 10-11 years). The mean IQ of the exposed group was lower than that of the control group, and there were more cases of borderline IQ (IQ = 70-79) (15.9% vs. 5.7% at 6-7 years; and 10.1% vs. 3.3% at 10-11 years). The mean value of thyroid doses from 131I 0.4 Gy was estimated for children exposed in utero. No correlation was found between individual thyroid doses and IQ at age 6-7 years or 10-11 years. We notice a positive moderate correlation between IQ of children and the educational level of their parents. There was a moderate correlation between high personal anxiety in parents and emotional disorders in children. We conclude that a significant role in the genesis of borderline intellectual functioning, specific developmental disorders of speech, language and scholastic skills, as well as emotional disorders in the exposed group of children was played by unfavourable social-psychological and social-cultural factors such as a low educational level of parents, the break of microsocial contacts, and adaptational difficulties, which appear following the evacuation and relocation from the contaminated areas.