Doctors of Chernobyl

Page - April 20, 2006
Just ahead of the holiday season, the hospital's corridors and consulting rooms are full. Surgeon Igor Komisarenko, head of the Institute for Endocrinology, has been operating all morning. Most of his patients are women with thyroid cancer. "Four years after the explosion we were confronted with a surge of cases of children with thyroid cancer. The closer to Chernobyl, the higher the chances of getting thyroid cancer."

Carel de Rooy, the UNICEF representative to the Russian Federation and Belarus, says that the World Health Organization expects many more new cases. UNICEF and other UN offices have been campaigning for years for a policy of universal salt iodization that would make thyroid glands much less vulnerable to radioactive iodine through becoming saturated with the iodized salt. So far, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia have not been willing to adapt their regulations.

"After the Chernobyl disaster, iodine was distributed too late, but radiation can affect all parts of the human body," says Doctor Komisarenko. "It can of course affect the stomach, the respiratory tract and the gynaecological organs." He has also noticed a rise in serious kidney diseases.

Pediatrician, Valentina Smolnikova, has seen the consequences in Buda Kashelova in the South of Belarus. She has been working there since 1979 and has seen dramatic changes since the nuclear disaster. "Before that, we hardly had any oncology problems concerning children. Now there are many cases of brain tumors, cancer of the eyes, kidneys and other organs." She noticed the first increase after the disaster in cases of bone and skin cancer: "There were also disorders of the nervous system with stress, depressions and abnormal behavior." After some years, the pattern changed and Smolnikova then started getting patients with thyroid cancer and leukemia.

"Now there are many children with congenital heart and kidney diseases." According to Smolnikova, in her area only 10 percent of the children are born really healthy. "Many children have chronic diseases or they have very low immunity. Very young children have been here between 30 to 50 times. They are here every single month of their lives."

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The above text is an extract from the forth-coming book; Certificate no. 000358/Nuclear devastation in Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Belarus, the Urals and Siberia. © (Photography) 2006 Robert Knoth, © (Text) 2006 Antoinette de Jong.

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