Health problems faced by the children of Chernobyl

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In 1986, as a result of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on the territory of the former Soviet Union, radioactive particles fell throughout Ukraine and neighboring countries. Children affected by radiation became known as the Children of Chernobyl. Here is a summary of the event and the health problems that the children of Chernobyl continue to face.

Yuri Kozyrev / Getty Images

Nuclear accident

On April 26, 1986 at 01:23 in reactor No. 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on the territory of modern Ukraine there was an explosion and fire. Before engineers and scientists could control it, 190 tons of highly radioactive material were released into the atmosphere. Radioactive particles hit not only Chernobyl, but all of Ukraine, as well as neighboring Belarus and Russia, and also moved to other European countries such as Poland. Scientists estimated that the amount of particles released was 400 times greater than the radiation from a nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The Chernobyl accident remains the greatest peacetime nuclear disaster in history.

Medical implications

As a result of the massive radiation, 31 people died in a short time, mainly factory workers and people who were near the accident site, who died from radiation sickness. Over time, it became clear that the accident left a number of serious long-term health problems for the people who lived in the area. These health problems were compounded by poverty, poor nutrition, and a lack of medical care in the region.

Thyroid Cancer and the Children of Chernobyl

Most people around the world have forgotten about the events of 1986. However, people in the area are reminded of the nuclear accident every time they look at the young people born at that time. Those who have been exposed to high levels of radiation before the age of 5 are more likely to suffer health consequences, such as stunted growth, poor dental health, and immune disorders. The Chernobyl children also developed thyroid cancer 10 times more often than usual .

Chernobyl children today

According to Chernobyl Children International, in 2015, the events of 1986 still affect the millions of people living in the fallout zone today, and more than a million children live in areas that are still contaminated .

  • In Ukraine, 6,000 children are born annually with genetic heart defects.
  • More than 3,000 Ukrainian children die each year due to lack of medical care.
  • Since 1986, the number of birth defects has increased by 200 percent and the number of congenital deformities in children born in the Chernobyl accident zone has increased by 250 percent.
  • In Belarus, 85% of children are considered Chernobyl victims (they carry genetic markers that can affect their health at any time and can be passed on to their children).
  • UNICEF found an increase in the incidence of children, an increase in malignant tumors by 38 percent, an increase in diseases of the circulatory system by 43 percent, and a 63 percent increase in diseases of the skeletal systems, muscle and connective tissue.

What the future holds

Today, organizations such as the International Organization "Children of Chernobyl" are dedicated to providing medical care, medicines, clothing and other support to the children of the Chernobyl region. It is not clear what the future will be for children in the Chernobyl region, but for now some of them have become happier, healthier and have survived illness thanks to the generosity of these organizations.

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