Newsletter n° 20

“Radiation monitoring of inhabitants and their food stuffs in Chernobyl zone of Belarus”
Series: “Chernobyl accident” (Minsk, 2001).


On April 11, 2001 the Parliamentary debates of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus denoted to the 15th anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe, its consequences in Belarus and their overcoming took place. In the main report of the Prime minister of Belarus V.V.Yermoshin the Chernobyl catastrophe was defined as an international humanitarian tragedy.
On April 2001 the State Committee on Problems of the Chernobyl (Comchernobyl) catastrophe published the national report “15 Years Since the Chernobyl Catastrophe: Consequences in the Republic of Belarus and their Overcoming”.
In those reports was mentioned that in Europe and America people have not got an idea about real measures of the Chernobyl catastrophe, the difficult consequences of which Belarus suffers till nowadays from. Measures of the catastrophe are so vast for the economy of the republic (235 milliard dollars, 32 annual budgets of the republic) that Belarus will be not able to ensure the safe living conditions of the population, to realize the adequate protective measures alone without effective international help.
Stopping the last of four nuclear reactors on December 15, 2000 in Chernobyl (Ukraine) provoked an illusory effect of vanishing the source of a nuclear danger from the Chernobyl NPP by the politicians and population of the West. Stopping the last reactor at the Chernobyl NPP is a political step. At the same time radiation safety of the population will be not guarantied because irradiated nuclear fuel with milliards of Ci of a highly toxic radioactive gas will be kept within the stopped reactors, because their is no effective radiation protection of the whole population of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia (tens of millions of people) who live on the territories contaminated with radionuclides. After releasing long-lived radionuclides on the territory of Belarus the main part of them accumulated in topsoil and now soil is a main source of getting radionuclides into agricultural and forest products due to 137Cs and 90Sr dissolution in subsoil waters. The main dose burden (more than 80%) is received by the population of the contaminated districts of Belarus because of eating local foodstuffs, which are badly contaminated with the 137Cs and 90Sr radionuclides. Making scientific reports at several German Universities (Göttigen etc.) on February 2001, at the 7th Paris University (France) on April 26, 2001 showed that even the scientific community (to say nothing of the rest of the population) could not imagine real measures of the Chernobyl catastrophe which Belarus suffers till nowadays from. Many people, especially in western countries (in France, for example), where the NPP produce more than 80% of electric power and where an atomic lobby activity is especially strong consider the Chernobyl catastrophe to be an event, which was long ago. But the consequences of this catastrophe continue to cause a breaking effect on all spheres of vital functions in Belarus. In Belarus 23% of the whole territory has a 137Cs contamination density more than 37 kBq/m2 (in the Ukraine – 5%, in Russia – 0.6%) and 136.5 thousand km2 (66%) of the territory of the republic has a 137Cs soil contamination more than 10 kBq/m2.
In 1986 more than 2 million people, including 500 thousand children lived in 3668 places of Belarus contaminated with 137Cs with the contamination density more than 37 kBq/m2.
On January 01, 2001 in Belarus there were [1]: 9,343 citizens who had fallen ill with radiation sickness and invalid in relation to those the causal relationship of the disablement with the catastrophe at the Chernobyl NPP were registered;
70,371 liquidators of the consequences of the catastrophe at the Chernobyl NPP within the evacuation zone in 1988-89, within the zones of the immediate and next resettlement in 1986-87;
1,571 thousand people including 357 thousand children living on the contaminated territories.
Today in Belarus 140 thousand persons from 470 places were removed from the most dangerous territories by the state not less than 200 thousand person became forced migrants themselves who left their regions contaminated with radionuclides. At the same time youth, intelligentsia and professional people have left and are intensive leaving these districts. In some the most suffered districts a part of pensioners makes about 70% from the whole number of the population that three times higher than in the whole republic [1].
During the first days and month after the catastrophe at the Chernobyl NPP in 1986 the intensive increase of the exposition g-dose rate was register practically over the whole territory of Belarus. The Iodine-131 contamination caused greater radiation dose of the thyroid gland (“iodine blow”) that led to the significant increase of the pathology, especially of children.
“As a result of the Chernobyl catastrophe radio iodine (first of all Iodine-131) was one of the main sources of irradiating the population that influenced, first of all, on the thyroid gland. The children and teenagers, especially children under 7, turned out to be the most irradiated inhabitants of Belarus. The results of direct measurements of 1986 that about 30% of children under 2 had got the doses more than 1 Gy. In the most contaminated rural places the average radiation doses of the thyroid gland of the small children made 3 Gy and more. The collective radiation dose of the thyroid gland of the population of Belarus made more than 553 thousand men-Gy. The irradiation of the thyroid gland is continuing after the iodine period too, though in smaller, doses due to the external and internal irradiation with radioactive caesium. During the post damage period the collective radiation dose of the thyroid gland because of radio caesium made by the population of the republic more than 21 thousand men-Gy.” [1].
On April 11, 2001 at the Parliamentary debates it was marked in the academician’s Ye.P.Demidchik report that in Belarus during the post damage period the number of cases of the thyroid cancer (TC) had increased in 88 times if to compare with predamage period. By teenagers it had increased in 13 times, by adults – in 5 times. During that period of time 7,701 cases of the TC had been registered. 1,415 children and teenagers (0-18) had had the TC.
The iodine blow in 1986 made people of Belarus radiosensitive and the continued 137Cs-irradiation of the thyroid gland of the inhabitants of Belarus predetermines the rise of new cases of the thyroid gland diseases. It will determine the necessity of realizing effective radiation protection measures of the inhabitants of Belarus, the children, first of all.
The continued nowadays radioactive effect on the inhabitants of Belarus is caused by the long-lived 137Cs-radionuclides on more than 95%. On the majority of the territories contaminated with the 137Cs-radionuclides 80-90% of the dose burden is made by the internal radiation due to the use of the local foodstuffs contaminated with radiocesium.
When eating the same meals children receive the 3-5 times bigger dose burdens from the local foodstuffs because of their smaller weight and more active processes in child’s body.
At the Parliamentary debates 2001 the director of the Institute for Maternity and Childhood Protection of the Ministry of Public Health Services (MPHS) of Belarus G.A.Shishko informed that since 1986 till 2000 a state of health of pregnant women on the territory with the density of contamination 1-5 Ci/km2 had deteriorated and a frequency of anaemia had increased in 5 times. 1/3 women are suffering from anaemia. In Gomel region on the territory with the density of contamination more than 5 Ci/km2 490 of 1,000 newborn children are sick.
It is said in the professor’s V.Ostapenko report that the risk group should consist of children who was 0-7 years old at the time of the accident. Nowadays this generation is of a genital age, they had a displacement of sex hormones, the functions of the thyroid gland are reduced in 2.5 times.
In some physicians’ reports in Belarus as well as in Russia the thesis was pronounced that 80% of the lifetime dose had been already received, and the small effectiveness of the further reduction of the collective radiation dose was mentioned. The permanent comparison of levels of general radiation doses takes place in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in Scandinavian countries.
On April 11, 2000 at the Parliamentary debates the academician A.P.Voytovich admitted the principal difference of the radiation character. In Belarus is a completely different radiation structure. In our case the internal radionuclide accumulation through the contaminated foodstuffs is the main risk factor. It is known that in great number of the regions of Belarus 80-90% of the total dose are formed by the internal radiation. It was mentioned an importance of rising the effectiveness the radiation control of foodstuffs, of improving the requirements to the norms of radiation safety (NRS). He also admitted the importance of the close control of radionuclide accumulations among the inhabitants of the Chernobyl regions, especially children, on the spectrometer of human radiation (SHR).
The academician A.P.Voytovich mentioned the importance of a medical propaganda, an education in schools in the field of radiation safety.
The academician Ye.F. Konoplya admitted the principle importance of the Conception of safety living of the population on the territories contaminated with radionuclides, which had been worked up in 1999 by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) of Belarus and had been approved by the Council of Ministries of the Republic of Belarus. In this Conception it is stated that ICRP has increased the risk coefficients for thyroid cancer, milk gland cancer etc in comparison with previous recommendations which were based on the Japanese scientists’ data. That is why it is recommended in the present Conception to reduce the level of starting the protective measures from 1 mSv/a up to 0.1-0.3 mSv/a. When working up this Conception it was taken into account that the irradiation in small doses is intensified if there is chemical contamination (lead etc.).
After finishing the Parliamentary debates the House of Representatives accepted an addition to the Act “About Radiation Protection of Citizens Suffered from the Chernobyl Catastrophe” on setting 0.1-0.3 mSv/a of the internal radiation as a limit for starting protective measures. The establishment of this norm will be carried out due to the decision of the Council of Ministries.
On April 15, 2000 at the Parliamentary debates of the National Assembly of Belarus and on December 07, 2000 at the scientific session of the General assembly of the NAS of Belarus it was stated in physicians’ and Comchernobyl experts’ reports that the number of completely healthy children had decreased from 85% (in 1985) up to 20% (in 1999).
The Republican Clinic for Radiation medicine of the MPHS of Belarus has been making the medical observe for 277 children evacuated from the 30-kilometer one of the Chernobyl NPP, as they were 1-3 years old. On reaching a teenager’s age (16-18) 5.1% were referred to the first group of health (practically healthy), 23.1% – to the second, 71.8% - to the third [8].
In 2000 in Brest, Gomel, Grodno and Minsk regions there were 438 places registered in which milk did not confirm to the RDU-99 requirements of the 137Cs concentration (100 Bq/l). In 1999 there were 376 such places, in 1998 – 451, in 1997 – 576 [8]. Because of the high 137Cs concentration in the main product which makes the dose for rural children – milk (in 2001 maximal values of the 137Cs concentration in milk in the private sector reached 1,400-2,600 Bq/l) there is a danger of the accumulation of high levels of the 137Cs concentration in children’s bodies. It is possibly one of the main reasons of the sudden deterioration of children’s health.
In 1996-2001 the Institute of Radiation Safety “Belrad” (Institute “Belrad”) that had got 7 mobile SHR-laboratories tested more than 115 thousand children in all regions of Belarus. These researches showed that 70-90% of children had the 137Cs accumulation in the body more than 15-20 Bq/kg of their weight; the children in many villages had the level of the 137Cs accumulation 200-400 Bq/kg, some children from Gomel region – 1,500-4,000 Bq/kg, in Narovlya district – up to 6,700-7,300 Bq/kg.
Our SHR-measurements showed that due to spreading the foodstuffs contaminated with radionuclides the zone of the ecological disaster turned out to be much larger that the zone of radiation contamination.
Great expectations on improvement of the radiation protection of the population were placed on the discussion of medical consequences of Chernobyl catastrophe at the International conference in Kiev (Ukraine) “Medical Effects of the Chernobyl Catastrophe: Results of 15-year Research” (On 4-8 June, 2001).
The organizers of conference were:

  • Chairwoman of the organizational committee – professor Nyagu,
  • Honorary chairman – Doctor Hiroshi Nakadzhima (Japan),
  • World Health Organization of UN (WHO), department of radiation protection (professor G.N.Sushkevich),
  • UN Agency on Coordination of Humanitarian Problems (D.Zupka),
  • International Commission on Radiation Protection (ICRP, I.A.Likhtarev),
  • International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), chief of the department of nuclear and radiation safety (A.J.Gonsales),
  • United Nation Scientific Committee of Atomic Radiation (UNSCAR, N.Gentner).

It was perhaps the most representative conference on problems of radiation protection of the population and medical effects of the Chernobyl catastrophe in last years.
The Institute “Belrad” made some reports and the report “Radiation Protection Measures of Population after the Chernobyl Catastrophe” included in the present information list was made at the plenary meeting.
Establishing the hard permissible levels of the 137Cs and 90Sr concentration in the main foodstuffs making the dose is one of the most effective measures of radiation protection of the population. In Russia and the Ukraine the permissible levels of the 137Cs concentration in foodstuffs of 50-70 Bq/kg were established by the sanitary norms for all children (under 18). At the same time the 137Cs concentration in the RDU-99 of Belarus in milk is 2 times and in meat is 3 times higher than in Russia.
Our SHR-measurements of the 137Cs accumulation in children’s bodies in Novozybkov of Bryansk region of Russia (380 persons) and in the village Valavsk of Yelsk district of Gomel region of Belarus (200 children and teenagers) in November-December 2000 showed that the average value of the 137Cs concentration in the Belarusian children’s bodies was 2.5 times higher than in the Russian children’s bodies.
The main danger of the further deterioration of children’s health, the future of the nation is a serious contamination of the local foodstuffs, which have the high levels of the 137Cs radionuclide accumulation.
It is obvious that it is difficult to provide safe living conditions of the population, especially children having got such financial means as governmental so the citizens’. That is why the economically available measures of reducing the 137Cs concentration in the main product which makes the dose – milk – due to feeding the cows of the diary herd with mixed fodder containing sorbents should be realized. Children and pregnant women should be provided with the foodstuffs containing the 137Cs not more than 50 Bq/kg and with food additives (including pectin), which accelerate the removal of radionuclides and heavy metals from the body.
The representation of the report and its discussion at the conference in Kiev (June, 2001) allowed to test the principle questions of the Institute “Belrad” activity. It was mentioned in I.A.Likhterev’s report (Scientific Centre for Radiation Medicine of the Academy of Medical Sciences of the Ukraine) that the SHR measurements of the 137Cs concentration in the bodies of the inhabitants of the Ukraine (in 1986-91 – 194,425 persons, 1992-95 – 203,212 persons, 1996-2000 – 274,234 persons) considers to be a priority for assessing the doses of the permanent radiation.
At the press conference on 04.06.01 and during the further discussions the disappointment occurred too. So Dr.Gonsales (IAEA) claimed that to his mind the established levels of the 137Cs accumulation in the body of the inhabitants of the Chernobyl regions could not cause such big radiation damage to people’s health. When discussing the problem the member of the ICRP the professor Savkin (Institute for Biophysics of the Medical Academy of Sciences of Russia) claimed that to his mind 137Cs is accumulated uniformly in tender tissues of the human body. But when the results of the measurements of the 137Cs accumulation in animals’ and human body which reflected the high non-uniformly of the radiocesium accumulation in different organs (up to 10 times) were shown he agreed with new information and G.N.Sushkevich mentioned about the necessity of the detailed study of the new phenomenon.
The Doctor Zakharash reported about the long-term monitoring of 600 members of the KGB of the Ukraine and admitted that the reconstruction of the radiation doses according to the analysis of the teeth enamel had showed that the received doses had been reduced in 20 times. In 1986 the enterosorbents had been used in the KGB-clinic, which had allowed to reduce the radionuclide accumulation in the body in 7-8 times due to sorption therapy. Basing on that successful experience the authors had recommended to the regions constantly using food contaminated with radionuclides to use enterosorbents 3-4 times a year, 10 days each time.
On the whole the disappointment was stimulated by the level of knowledge of the WHO, IAEA, UNSCAR authorities, in the field of medical effects of the Chernobyl catastrophe in three republics and also the fact that there were no facts about the dose values and medical effects for the people’s health in Belarus in the last UNSCAR scientific report.
The report of the Institute “Belrad” “Post damage radio monitoring of the level of the radionuclide accumulation in foodstuffs and in bodies of the inhabitants of the Chernobyl regions of Belarus” represented at the conference in Kiev in April 2001 is included in the present information list.
Since 15 years after the Chernobyl catastrophe despite of the processes of the physical 137Cs break-up the contamination of the local foodstuffs with this radionuclide in the Chernobyl zone of Belarus has not reduced in principle and in some places during the last 2-3 years there was a tendency to its increase.
It especially applies to the inhabited area of the Chernobyl zone of Belarusian Polesye. In this information list there are the results of the radiation monitoring of the children of Bragin, Rechitsa, Svetlogorsk, Kalinkovichi, Zhitkovichi of the districts of Gomel region and carrying out their radiation protection with the help of the pectin preparation “Vitapect”.