University of South Carolina

A Ukrainian family examines its harvested crops.
A Ukrainian family examines its harvested crops.

Chernobyl soil blamed for lung problems in children

Children living downwind of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukraine may have long-term problems affecting their lungs, according to a University of South Carolina study.

The results of the study, led by Dr. Erik Svendsen of the Arnold School of Public Health, are published in the May issue of the journal, Environmental Health Perspectives. The study shows that the source of the children’s problems is radioactive cesium, a chemical element that contaminated the soil and air after the world’s most serious nuclear accident.

The health consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster on April 26, 1986, have never been fully reported, in part because of disagreement among health and medical officials about their impact and a lack of epidemiological studies.

Although the disaster occurred more than 24 years ago, the soil in many areas of the Ukraine remains “profoundly contaminated” with radioactive cesium, said Svendsen, who collaborated with Dr. Wilfried J.J. Karmaus of the Arnold School’s Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Dr. Timothy Mousseau, a University of South Carolina researcher who has studied the impact of the Chernobyl disaster since 1999 and will head back to the area this summer to conduct further research.

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