Intended for healthcare professionals


Chernobyl 10 years on

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: (Published 27 April 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:1052
  1. Denis L Henshaw
  1. Professor of Physics University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1TL

    Thyroid cancer may be the only measurable health effect

    The beautiful countryside around Chernobyl belies the fact that this is the site of the world's worst nuclear accident. The explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power station 10 years ago released radiation 200 times the level of the combined release from the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The explosion rendered an area of 30 km radius—the size of the area enclosed by the M25 motorway around London—uninhabitable for humans possibly for generations to come. Of the 400000 people relocated because of the explosion 135000 once lived within the 30 km zone. The physical effects of the explosion are still visible enough, but the health effects are not at all apparent. Although at least 30 of the workers involved in the clean up operation died, the experience of Chernobyl illustrates well the difficulties of assessing the health effects of a nuclear accident.

    Visit the hospital in the village of Kotzubinskaya, just outside the 30 km zone, and there are wards with children suffering with diabetes, testifying to the severe shortage of insulin. This …

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