Lessons of Chernobyl can apply to Fukushima

Chernobyl in modern timesRussian and the Ukrainian physicians have studied the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster in the past 25 years and they are ready to share their experience with Japan in the wake of the accident at its Fukushima nuclear power plant. Among the illnesses caused by exposure to radiation are radiation sickness, leukemia, thyroid cancer, schizophrenia, cataract and even early death.

The accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant after a devastating earthquake almost coincided with the 25th anniversary of the explosion of a nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl plant. Originally, experts insisted that there will be no dangerous consequences and consequently, there is no need to worry because the Japanese reactor differs conceptually from that of Chernobyl in the Soviet Union, which exploded on the 26th of April 1986. However, as the situation went out of control, radiation started leaking. This prompted the experts to compare the situation with that of Chernobyl, and according to the French daily L’Express, the TERCO Company is inviting those who were involved in eliminating the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster to cope with the situation in Japan. What is the impact of radiation on the health of people is the question that worries all. There is no unambiguous answer, says the chairman of the Russian Scientific Commission on Radiation Protection, Victor Ivanov.

“One has to know three things to make reliable forecasts: the radiation dose, demographical data because the risk of women to a unit dose is greater than that of men, and ways for estimating the radiation risk. Russia has all the models,” says Victor Ivanov.

According to Russian and Ukrainian physicians who treated Chernobyl rescuers, those who received instantly about 300 millisieverts or 0.3 grey or more suffered from serious illnesses. For one, they suffered from leukemia, and there were cancer patients among them, says Victor Ivanov.

“In view of this, we advise Japanese officials to limit the dose down to 150 millisiverts. They are doing so. A few people have exceeded this figure at the Fukushima,” Victor Ivanov said.

Experts believe that unlike in Chernobyl, there is no problem of acute radiation sickness in Japan. The most dangerous one is the severe radiation sickness, which is characterized by radiation burns, non-healing skin injuries, vomiting, digestive problems and high temperature. There were about 150 such patients after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. They were treated at hospitals in Moscow and Kiev, and doctors could save many of them, says radiologist, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Medical Science, Angelina Guskova.

“Many of these patients underwent successful recuperation. This is also confirmed by our colleagues in Kiev. The motivation of these people to work, and personal disposition are crucial in achieving a recovery. A group of Japanese has recently made a documentary film about a person who suffered from radiation sickness after receiving radiation about 4.5 grey. 70 percent of his body’s skin was damaged. He is now doing business actively after treatments. There is a sorrowful example too. This is linked to a man who was the last person to die. He was a young man and received 11 grey. We put our hearts and souls behind him. He died of cirrhosis after recovering from radiation sickness,” Angelina Guskova said.

However, radio-phobia poses a serious threat. There is a concept among specialists known as anticipatory stress. This concerns a person who is afraid in advance that he will be subjected to radiation. This feeling may cause illnesses. The most unpleasant thing is that the fear complex triggers real somatic disorders. Consequently, no one should sow panic, insist doctors who believe that it’s impossible to make any forecasts before the complete localization of the disaster or its elimination.