Most Ukrainians still associate their serious illnesses and vulnerable immunity with the consequences of the Chernobyl accident, a disaster on a planetary scale. There are so many fears associated with the consequences of the Chernobyl accident that the United Nations Development Program even proposes to abandon the phrase “Chernobyl victim” so as not to deepen the accumulation of depression among the liquidators and displaced people.
The Institute of Sociology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine conducts studies every year, which unequivocally show that the level of vital passivity is growing among people with the status of “Chernobyl victim”.
Sociologists believe that 45% of citizens living in territories contaminated with radiation do not want to do anything to get out of a difficult situation, and 30% of the victims say that they have completely lost any interest in life.
The main reason for such depressive disorder is the belief that the so-called Chernobyl victims, and indeed almost all residents of the country, will not be able to avoid a bunch of diseases associated with the consequences of the Chernobyl accident.
A matter of time till someone feels worse today, but for someone the “inevitability of the Chernobyl consequences” will come in a couple of years. Do people have reason to experience such fear?
A dangerous status
More than 2.383 million Ukrainians were recognized as victims of the Chernobyl accident. These are the liquidators who worked at the fourth power unit from the time of the fire until the construction of the sarcophagus, as well as the evacuated residents of the Chernobyl exclusion zone and people who remained to live in the contaminated territories in the Kiev, Zhytomyr and Chernihiv regions.
The main diseases of the Chernobyl victims are oncological, diseases of the nervous system and circulatory system, and congenital malformations in children, for example, Down syndrome. Doctors have confirmed a causal relationship with radiation pollution in 73% of cases of disease. Today, doctors recognize “healthy” no more than 5% of liquidators and only every fifth Chernobyl child.
Acute radiation sickness, radiation burns, cataracts, immune abnormalities – this is the scourge of the liquidators who worked at the reactor from the first day of the accident. As you know, 28 liquidators died a terrible death from radiation sickness in a Moscow hospital, within three months after the tragedy.
In general, 134 people received acute radiation sickness, many of them have died from the effects of radiation over the past 33 years. The remaining 350,000 Ukrainian liquidators have chronic diseases: from 5 to 12 diagnoses per person fall simultaneously.
There are enough diseases without a reactor explosion – Coronavirus COVID-19
As for the rest of the Ukrainians, doctors note that the situation with the disease of people who do not have official Chernobyl status is no less comforting, although not directly related to radiation. There are becoming more cancer patients in Ukraine, as in the whole world.
The highest incidence of cancer is in Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Kirovograd, Zaporizhzhya, Kherson regions. Doctors explain this state of affairs as a result of the extremely poor ecological state of these territories.
These are the largest industrial regions with the highest environmental pollution. Here, forms of oncological diseases are manifested in all their “terrible variety”, people suffer from not only thyroid or blood cancer.
In addition, the effect of radiation pollution on the mutation of fungal and viral infections has been recorded. As a result of such a mutation, infections become more aggressive. While there is widespread concern about the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19, radiation pollution adversely affects the human body’s ability to withstand invisible dangers.
Can radiation contribute to the mutation of the SARS virus into Coronavirus COVID-19? Scientists have yet to figure out. Can catastrophes on a global scale, such as Chernobyl, Fukushima and others, cause aggressive development of viral infections? The question remains open.
Our health is our ecology and age-related changes
Participants in the annual Chernobyl Forum of the same name, leading experts from international organizations such as WHO, UN, IAEA and the World Bank, believe that certain forms of cancer caused by exposure to radiation can have a long latent period. This means that it is still too early to draw conclusions about the fully radiological consequences of the Chernobyl accident.
It must be admitted that today, Chernobyl is turning from a real historical event into a symbolic date endowed with various ideas and meanings. In general, Chernobyl, to one degree or another, affected ideas about the existing reality and demanded new philosophical, cultural and political reboots.
First of all, the Chernobyl explosion marked an explosion within the Soviet system itself, since it undermined faith in “modernization in a socialist way”. This is precisely what has been carried out for more than half a century due to overuse of the mind, physical efforts of a person, as well as through violence against individual freedom, nation, gender, social status, culture.
However, Chernobyl did not only fit into the framework of socialism, it fell out of the system of the Western modernized project. The Chernobyl accident got distracted from large narratives about scientific progress and social justice. In turn, it emphasized the informational value of each person’s daily life, the “life prose” of the liquidators and their families, how the Kiev citizens took children away from radiation, the well-being of those who survived in areas close to the Chernobyl zone.
Chernobyl has also become an important factor in the struggle for Ukrainian independence. The Chernobyl theme, overflowing with criticism of the socialist system, has become a link in the chain of factors of creating national identity.
The accident at the nuclear power plant, near Kiev, in the reserved Polesie, was perceived as a destructive political action aimed at destroying the national landscape, ancient culture, authenticity of the Ukrainian people. It is impossible to collect a herbarium of facts from history and keep them for ever, like a relic.
They say that time heals, but the Chernobyl wounds hurt to this day. The names of brave Ukrainian volunteers — Chernobyl workers, firefighters, military personnel, builders, and doctors who stopped the chain reaction of radiation death — cannot be erased from memory.
Pain and memory are the duty of the generation that lives and will live after the Chernobyl tragedy.
The accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant brought many troubles to Ukraine. These include the once fertile Ukrainian lands withdrawn from agricultural circulation, abandoned cities and villages, huge funds spent on the construction of the Sarcophagus, and much more. But the accident caused the most painful blow to the health of Ukrainians – it cannot be estimated in monetary terms. Alas, this applies not only to contemporaries, but also to many generations to come.
Today, it remains relevant to identify risks to human health, study the effects of radioactive pollution on the environment, forecast strategic directions, solve the problems of the spread of radionuclides in water, air, soil, study the possible consequences of these phenomena on specific population groups at risk, including, given their psychological and personal resource, and lifestyle.
As you know, radioactive iodine, released in huge quantities into the atmosphere during the Chernobyl accident, fell apart two months after the tragedy. However, the catastrophic consequences associated with its maximum concentration can still be observed, and it is not known for sure how much more the Chernobyl disaster will affect people’s health and this effect will cease altogether.