The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 80.0°F | Partly Cloudy

Years later, Chernobyl victims still suffer

The second paragraph was changed -- adl

Earth Day 1991 in Boston has been transformed this year from a single day of remembrance and celebration to an entire week of multi-issue awareness. This Friday at noon, a commemorative event which remembers both the planet and its residents has been scheduled at Boston City Hall Plaza.

Five years have passed since an estimated 50 tons of radioactive material were released at Chernobyl, Ukraine (10 times the amount of fallout at Hiroshima), The New York Times reported [4/14/91].

Two days after the explosion, the Swedish national radio reported that "10,000" times the normal amount of Cesium 137 existed in their air space, prompting Moscow to officially respond. The following day over 135,000 people were evacuated from within an 18-mile radius of the accident.

A 30-km zone around the damaged site labeled the "special zone" has since been permanently evacuated, as the high levels of radioactivity have been predicted to exist for several centuries.

The "official" death count as a result of the explosion remains listed as 33, although USA Today [April 4] recently reported that up to 10,000 have now died.

Anthony Robbins, a public-health professor at Boston University, stated last year in

The New York Times [4/28/90], "Everyone (Soviet epidemiological experts and lay people) you talk to is telling you that every time they look, the situation is worse than before."

The number of individuals this will ultimately affect has been estimated as high as 11 times that of the cancer deaths expected from the combined 1945 bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Already the toll on living organisms has been grave. During the summer of 1987, over 800,000 individuals were given medical examinations as a result of Chernobyl-related complaints. Unofficial estimates report that an unusually high number of women in the 100-mile radius around Chernobyl feared delivering their babies and aborted their pregnancies.

Some areas near Chernobyl have even now reported the total absence of animal life. Dead rats, mice and other wild or stray animals have been found in massive quantities. Mutations due to the radiation have resulted in farm animals being born without heads or eyes or internal organs.

This is due to the fact that radiation levels near Chernobyl have grown higher as a result of the radioactive contamination that has now entered the soil and the food chain possibly affecting hundreds of thousands of living beings, according to David Marples of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies.

For most people living outside the Soviet Union, the Chernobyl "chapter" has long been over. This is in large part due to efforts to understate the seriousness of the accident.

Time and time again, the Soviet government has acted as if the explosion was only minor. Five days after the lethal explosion and with the public still uninformed of the potential danger, the May Day parade took place as scheduled some 60 miles south of the plant in the city of Kiev, the Ukrainian capital and one of the Soviet Union's largest metropolitan areas (population 2.4 million).

Less than a week later, 250,000 children and pregnant women were evacuated from Kiev. Even last year over 130,000 people from both Ukrainian and Byelorussian affected regions were relocated.

Today it is believed that over 4 million people in the Ukraine, Byelorussia and western Russia still live on contaminated ground. Recent relief efforts such as the two-year-old Children of Chernobyl Relief Fund and Project Hope have had some success, according to The New York Times [April 13], with the former providing over $7 million worth of aid and the latter distributing aid for the US government.

What remains the largest obstacle for Chernobyl relief organizations is the lack of information and media coverage of the innocent victims' plight here in the West.

So how can MIT students help? First, you can attend the City of Boston Earth Day event remembering the Chernobyl human and environmental victims this Friday. The honorable Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and John F. Kerry (D-MA), Mayor Raymond L. Flynn and Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Nations Guennadi Oudovenko are scheduled to speak at the non-political event.

A large audience for this event translates into action by our elected officials. Second, one can contact the above relief agencies and find out how to help. Finally, we can make sure that such a catastrophe will never occur in the future.

Nikola Deskovic G->

Alexander Peter Gamota->

Event Directors->

Committee to->

Remember Chernobyl->