Friday, March 18, 2011

UNSCEAR on Chernobyl health effects

The UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation maintains a website on the Chernobyl disaster with a summary of their findings and PDFs of reports from 2000 and 2008. Their statistics aren't uncontroversial. To date, the UN estimates 28 fatalities associated with acute radiation syndrome (ARS) out of 134 highly exposed plant staff and emergency workers, another 19 deaths among that group that do not appear to be associated with ARS, and 15 deaths among the more than 6,000 children or adolescents exposed to iodine-131 via milk and diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The UN also cites some evidence of increases in the incidence of leukemia and cataracts among the larger group of recovery workers but argues it is inconclusive due to low statistical power.

Reports seem to suggest that conditions at the Fukushima Daiichi reactor are unlikely to result in releases of Chernobyl-sized plumes of radioactivity.