Deaths due to the Chernobyl disaster

The death toll of the 1986 Chernobyl incident / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The Chernobyl disaster, considered the worst nuclear disaster in history, occurred on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, then part of the Soviet Union, now in Ukraine. From 1986 onward, the total death toll of the disaster has lacked consensus; as peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet and other sources have noted, it remains contested.[1] There is consensus that a total of approximately 30 people died from immediate blast trauma and acute radiation syndrome (ARS) in the seconds to months after the disaster, respectively, with 60 in total in the decades since, inclusive of later radiation induced cancer.[2][3][4] However, there is considerable debate concerning the accurate number of projected deaths that have yet to occur due to the disaster's long-term health effects; long-term death estimates range from up to 4,000 (per the 2005 and 2006 conclusions of a joint consortium of the United Nations) for the most exposed people of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia, to 16,000 cases in total for all those exposed on the entire continent of Europe, with figures as high as 60,000 when including the relatively minor effects around the globe. Such numbers are based on the heavily contested linear no-threshold model.[5]

This no-threshold epidemiology problem is not unique to Chernobyl, and similarly hinders attempts to estimate low level radon pollution, air pollution and natural sunlight exposures. Determining the elevated risk or total number of deaths from very low doses is completely subjective, and while much higher values would be detectable, lower values are outside the statistically significant reach of empirical science and are expected to remain unknowable.[6][7]

From model-based epidemiological studies, the incidence of thyroid cancer cases due to the accident by 2065 compared with other cancer-inducing sources (diet etc.) across Europe, is roughly 1 in 10,000 as a probable worst-case scenario.[8][9] Thyroid cancer is relatively amenable to treatment for several decades. Attributing a 1% mortality rate by Tuttle et al. to the 16,000 cases across Europe as predicted by Cardis et al. results in a likely final total death toll from radiation-induced thyroid cancer of around 160.[8][10]

There have been no validated increases in solid cancer reported from the liquidator cohorts. The liquidators were adult at exposure and the vast majority of them received doses under 100 mSv, which is lower than many expect.[11]

Note also that a paper in Science states there is no transgenerational effect of radiation in children born of those working as liquidators. This study used whole genome sequencing in a cohort of parent and child blood samples.[12]