• 30 MAR 06
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    UN/WHO accused of ignoring 500,000 Chernobyl deaths

    From Iris Atzmon:

    UN accused of ignoring 500,000 Chernobyl deaths

    · Atomic agency says toll will not exceed 4,000
    · Doctors ‘overwhelmed’ by cancers and mutations

    John Vidal, environment editor
    Saturday March 25, 2006
    The Guardian

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/ukraine/story/0,,1739339,00.html
    Also see: http://observer.guardian.co.uk/magazine/story/0,,1738134,00.html

    United Nations nuclear and health watchdogs have ignored evidence of deaths, cancers, mutations and other conditions after the Chernobyl accident, leading scientists and doctors have claimed in the run-up to the nuclear disaster’s 20th anniversary next month.

    In a series of reports about to be published, they will suggest that at least 30,000 people are expected to die of cancers linked directly to severe radiation exposure in 1986 and up to 500,000 people may have already died as a result of the world’s worst environmental catastrophe.

    But the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the WHO say that only 50 deaths can be directly attributed to the disaster, and that, at most, 4,000 people may eventually die from the accident on April 26 1986.

    They say only nine children have died of thyroid cancers in 20 years and that the majority of illnesses among the estimated 5 million people contaminated in the former Soviet Union are attributable to growing poverty and unhealthy lifestyles.

    An IAEA spokesman said he was confident the UN figures were correct. “We have a wide scientific consensus of 100 leading scientists. When we see or hear of very high mortalities we can only lean back and question the legitimacy of the figures. Do they have qualified people? Are they responsible? If they have data that they think are excluded then they should send it.”

    The new estimates have been collated by researchers commissioned by European parliamentary groups, Greenpeace International and medical foundations in Britain, Germany, Ukraine, Scandinavia and elsewhere. They take into account more than 50 published scientific studies.

    “At least 500,000 people — perhaps more — have already died out of the two million people who were officially classed as victims of Chernobyl in Ukraine,” said Nikolai Omelyanets, deputy head of the National Commission for Radiation Protection in Ukraine. “[Studies show] that 34,499 people who took part in the clean-up of Chernobyl have died in the years since the catastrophe. The deaths of these people from cancers was nearly three times as high as in the rest of the population.

    “We have found that infant mortality increased 20 percent to 30 percent because of chronic exposure to radiation after the accident. All this information has been ignored by the IAEA and WHO. We sent it to them in March last year and again in June. They’ve not said why they haven’t accepted it,” he said.

    Evgenia Stepanova, of the Ukrainian government’s Scientific Center for Radiation Medicine, said: “We’re overwhelmed by thyroid cancers, leukaemias and genetic mutations that are not recorded in the WHO data and which were practically unknown 20 years ago.”

    The IAEA and WHO, however, say that apart from an increase in thyroid cancer in children there is no evidence of a large-scale impact on public health. “No increases in overall cancer incidence or mortality that could be associated with radiation exposure have been observed,” said the agencies’ report in September.

    In the Rivne region of Ukraine, 500km west of Chernobyl, doctors say that they are coming across an unusual rate of cancers and mutations. “In the 30 hospitals of our region we find that up to 30 percent of people who were in highly radiated areas have physical disorders, including heart and blood diseases, cancers and respiratory diseases. Nearly one in three of all the new born babies have deformities, mostly internal,” said Alexander Vewremchuk, of the Special Hospital for the Radiological Protection of the Population in Vilne.

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