- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 14, 2000

Differing numbers on Chernobyl disaster

In a front-page article about the visit of President Clinton to Ukraine, Sergei Shoigu, Russian emergency situation minister, was paraphrased as saying, "As many as 55,000 people have died as a result of the April 24, 1986, [Chernobyl] disaster, which exposed thousands of villagers to fatal doses of radiation." The article continued: "Some think the toll is much higher because thyroid cancer is sweeping" and "leukemia is far more widespread than in otherwise comparative settings, according to Greenpeace."

These tragic statements, fortunately, are not true. On June 6, after five years of reviewing all available scientific information on the health impact of the Chernobyl accident, the U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), the most competent and impartial international body on radiation matters, issued a report to the U.N. General Assembly, in which it concluded:

"Apart from the increase in thyroid cancer after childhood exposure, no increases in overall cancer incidence or mortality have been observed that could be attributed to ionizing radiation. The risk of leukemia, one of the main concerns (leukemia is the first cancer to appear after radiation exposure owing to its short latency time of two to 10 years), does not appear to be elevated, even among the recovery operation workers. Neither is there any proof of other non-malignant disorders that are related to ionizing radiation. However, there were widespread psychological reactions to the accident. These are due to the fear of radiation, not due to the radiation doses.

"The number of thyroid cancers (about 1,800) in individuals exposed in childhood, particularly in the severely contaminated areas of the three affected countries, is considerably greater than expected based on previous knowledge. The high incidence and the short induction period are unusual. Other factors [than radiation] may be influencing the risk." Of the 1,800 registered thyroid cancer patients, one has died, according to L.A. Ilyin, representative of Russia in UNSCEAR.

Statements such as those in your article perpetuate fear and propagate a virtual epidemic of psychosomatic diseases in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.

ZBIGNIEW JAWOROWSKI

Warsaw

Zbigniew Jaworowski is scientific council chairman of the Central Laboratory for Radiological Protection and representative of Poland to the U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation.

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The figures on deaths caused by the Chernobyl accident in your June 6 article "Nuclear reactor at Chernobyl will be closed" are incorrect. The article states, "As many as 55,000 people have died as a result of the … disaster, which exposed thousands of villagers to fatal doses of radiation… ."

An international conference, "One Decade After Chernobyl: Summing Up the Consequences of the Accident," held in Vienna in April 1996, found that few deaths had resulted from the accident. The conference was sponsored by the European Commission, the World Health Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency and was held in cooperation with several U.N. departments and organizations and the Nuclear Energy Agency of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Papers were presented by leading scientists and doctors from Europe and the United States. The conference report states that in addition to three immediate deaths resulting from the accident, acute radiation syndrome (ARS) was diagnosed in 134 cases of the 237 occupationally exposed cleanup workers. Of these, 28 died soon after. Of the remaining 106 with ARS, only 14 died in the 10 years following the accident. The report states that thyroid cancer in children under the age of 15 was the only cancer that was shown to have increased in areas of heavy fallout.

More than 2 million children under age 15 lived in the affected area at the time of the accident. A total of 565 were diagnosed later with thyroid cancer, but only three of them died from it. The conference secretariat reported: "Apart from thyroid cancer, there has been no statistically significant deviation in the incidence rates of other cancers attributable to radiation exposure due to the accident. In particular, to date no consistent attributable increase has been detected in the rate of leukemia… ." This is a far cry from the 55,000 deaths claimed in your article.

REED IRVINE

Chairman

Accuracy in Media

Washington

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The figures on deaths caused by the Chernobyl accident in your June 6 article "Nuclear reactor at Chernobyl will be closed" are incorrect. The article states, "As many as 55,000 people have died as a result of the … disaster, which exposed thousands of villagers to fatal doses of radiation… ."

An international conference, "One Decade After Chernobyl: Summing Up the Consequences of the Accident," held in Vienna in April 1996, found that few deaths had resulted from the accident. The conference was sponsored by the European Commission, the World Health Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency and was held in cooperation with several U.N. departments and organizations and the Nuclear Energy Agency of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Papers were presented by leading scientists and doctors from Europe and the United States. The conference report states that in addition to three immediate deaths resulting from the accident, acute radiation syndrome (ARS) was diagnosed in 134 cases of the 237 occupationally exposed cleanup workers. Of these, 28 died soon after. Of the remaining 106 with ARS, only 14 died in the 10 years following the accident. The report states that thyroid cancer in children under the age of 15 was the only cancer that was shown to have increased in areas of heavy fallout.

More than 2 million children under age 15 lived in the affected area at the time of the accident. A total of 565 were diagnosed later with thyroid cancer, but only three of them died from it. The conference secretariat reported: "Apart from thyroid cancer, there has been no statistically significant deviation in the incidence rates of other cancers attributable to radiation exposure due to the accident. In particular, to date no consistent attributable increase has been detected in the rate of leukemia… ." This is a far cry from the 55,000 deaths claimed in your article.

REED IRVINE

Chairman

Accuracy in Media

Washington

A wall between columnist and Jefferson

Balint Vazsonyi insists that we need to put God back into the government ("How much longer under God?" Commentary, June 13). It is true, as Mr. Vazsonyi says, that the phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear in the Constitution.

It was Thomas Jefferson, commenting on the Bill of Rights, who said that the First Amendment created a "wall of separation" between church and state. Yes, that Thomas Jefferson the same one who said, "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just." These are not the comments of a man who sees God as having a role in government.

In reading Mr. Vazsonyi's column, I cannot help but think that he, as a conservative, is doing to the First Amendment what many conservatives accuse gun-control advocates of doing to the Second Amendment: overanalyzing it in an attempt to subvert it and "prove" that the amendment doesn't really mean what it says.

PARRISH S. KNIGHT

Silver Spring

Metro racing down the wrong track

During the more than 20 years I have lived in the Washington area, I have been impressed with the Metro transit system and believed it was one of the truly bright spots in our community. It always has been clean, reliable, predictable and safe. I always use Metro whenever possible to accomplish my business and pleasure trips in and around the city.

In the past few months, however, it appears that Metro has become as dysfunctional as many of the other public-service elements in Washington. Metro's absence of leadership and complete lack of attention to detail ultimately will result in a catastrophic accident.

In Metro's latest incident, we again read that employees in the operations center directed certain unsafe actions ("Violation of Metro safety rules led to runaway train," June 12).

The remedy was to suspend the train drivers while failing to discipline the operations center personnel responsible for the incident. It appears to this rider that Metro needs a new chief operating officer and that every employee in the operations center needs to undergo retraining and re-certification before any of them are permitted to resume their operational duties.

GREG MASON

Manassas

Conservatives should fight for good child care

In his thoughtful column "Child care for cutting crime?" (Commentary, June 1), Benjamin Tyree writes, "Conservatives need to get involved in this issue." I am a conservative in my 17th year as an elected Republican sheriff. I am involved with fighting crime every day, and I see boosting funding to help at-risk children get Head Start and decent child care as just common-sense conservatism.

Most children under age 6 are in households where both parents are in the work force. One child in four lives with one parent. Decent child care for two children easily can cost $12,000 a year much more than many working families can pay.

Studies clearly prove that failing to help working parents get good child care for at-risk children can quintuple our risk that children will grow up to victimize us (see www.fightcrime.org). This costs the lives of thousands of crime victims and squanders billions of taxpayer dollars we then must spend on crime and prisons.

That is why the 10,000 members of the National Sheriff's Association and dozens of other law enforcement organizations say elected officials should assure that all families have access to good educational child care.

PATRICK J. SULLIVAN JR.

Littleton, Colo.

Patrick Sullivan is sheriff of Arapahoe County, Colo.

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