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J Radiol Prot. 2012 Jun;32(2):181-9. doi: 10.1088/0952-4746/32/2/181. Epub 2012 May 8.

On protecting the inexperienced reader from Chernobyl myths.

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Institute of Radiation Hygiene, St Petersburg, Russia.


The health and environmental consequences of the Chernobyl accident continue to attract the attention of experts, decision-makers and the general public, and now these consequences have been given added relevance by the similar accident in 2011 at the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant (NPP) in Japan. Expert analysis of radiation levels and effects has been conducted by international bodies--UNSCEAR in 2008 and the Chernobyl Forum during 2003-5. At the same time, three Russian and Belarusian scientists, Yablokov, Nesterenko and Nesterenko (2009 Chernobyl. Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment (New York: Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences)) published both in Russian and English a substantial review of the consequences of Chernobyl based mostly on Russian-language papers. In this book, they suggested a departure from analytical epidemiological studies in favour of ecological ones. This erroneous approach resulted in the overestimation of the number of accident victims by more than 800‚ÄČ000 deaths during 1987-2004. This paper investigates the mistakes in methodology made by Yablokov et al and concludes that these errors led to a clear exaggeration of radiation-induced health effects. Should similar mistakes be made following the 2011 accident at Fukushima-1 NPP this could lead quite unnecessarily to a panic reaction by the public about possible health effects and to erroneous decisions by the authorities in Japan.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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