Chernobyl linked to British children's deaths

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster may have caused the deaths of 1000 children across England and Wales, as rain from contaminated clouds fell on parts of England and Wales, new research suggests.

The Chernobyl area, pictured by the Russian Mir spacecraft in 1997

The Chernobyl area, pictured by the Russian Mir spacecraft in 1997

Twenty years after the disaster, epidemiologist John Urquhart told the Nuclear Free Local Authorities conference in London on Thursday that he had found an "almost perfect correlation" between areas where rain from radioactive clouds fell, and an 11% increase in infant deaths.

Nationwide averages have so far masked the regional increases in infant death rates. But when seen in conjunction with a detailed nuclear fallout map based on meteorological data, a different picture emerges, he said.

The researcher obtained infant death figures from 1983 to 1992 for 200 hospital districts across England and Wales. He found regional increases in infant deaths following the accident, which happened on 26 April 1986, in areas where plumes of rain brought nuclear fallout onto the ground.

One such radioactive plume started on the Isle of Wight, a second clipped the coast of Kent, another spread out east of London. Parts of Northern England and Wales were also heavily contaminated following the disaster, the research found.

"What is unnerving are the leaps in infant deaths following the leap in radioactive fallout," John Urquhart told the London audience, in which anti-nuclear sentiment dominated.

"For example, the whole of Yorkshire is virtually clear and shows an infant death excess of 0% whereas in the radioactive area of the far west, Bradford, infant deaths in 1986 rose by 60% over previous years," he said.

The Government should consider implications of the research for emergency planning, John Urquhart said. For example, as radiation can persist in reproductive organs, children not yet conceived when a nuclear disaster occurs can be affected by the fallout, he said.

"Bear in mind that here in London you are only 150 miles down wind of the French nuclear reprocessing plant at Cap La Hague which contains a radioactive inventory 30 times that of Chernobyl," he said.

Numerous other speakers at the conference used Chernobyl as an example when arguing that nuclear power should not be included in Britain's future energy mix, which the on-going energy review is to decide.

Darren Johnson, Green party representative on the GLA, said: "If Chernobyl teaches us anything it is that nuclear power and nuclear weapons have no place anywhere on earth."

By Goska Romanowicz


| nuclear


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