Devastating review of Yablokov’s Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment

Sometime before December 2009, someone at the New York Academy of Sciences decided to print a Greenpeace sponsored book titled Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment in a publication called the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. The roots of the decision remain murky.

Within a few months after the first printing of the book, Ted Rockwell, a long time member of the Academy, started working to convince NYAS leaders that the decision to print was a grave error that was bad for science and posed a significant risk to the reputation of the Academy as a source of sound, peer-reviewed information. As part of his effort, he encouraged the current editor of Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences to appoint reviewers and to post the results of those reviews.

Ted made the suggestion sometime in the late spring of 2010. On September 1, 2011, the editor of Annals of NYAS posted a review, but did so in an interesting way. Here is a screenshot of the page that shows the existence of a link to a review.

PDF link to M. I. Balonov

PDF link to M. I. Balonov

Clicking on the link downloads a PDF file. Though the document is available to the public, it is hidden from one of the most powerful tools known to mankind – a web crawler that would index the document and make it instantly available to anyone using a search tool like Google. Though there are perfectly innocent explanations of why the review was posted in this format, I am a suspicious sort of person who looks at the glowing descriptions of the document that are posted in a more accessible HTML format just above and below the link.

The editor of Annals of the NYAS has also indicated in correspondence with some of my friends that since the publication has stopped printing the book that it has no responsibility for its existence as a full text download at numerous sites around the web that are heavily promoted by antinuclear media darlings like Helen Caldicott, Bonnie Raitt and Harvey Wasserman.

The Annals site describing Chernobyl: Consequences… includes a sparsely worded statement of non-availability – right below a link that leads to a full text version available to members of the NYAS. “This volume is out of stock and will not be reprinted by the Academy”. However, the private correspondence that some investigators have shared with me indicate that the NYAS decided to return the license to the authors and editors of the book so that they could do anything they want with it.

I hope that the NYAS follows the same spirit of generosity with regard to any license that they might hold on the publication of reviews of the book that have been submitted to them. Here is the full text of the review provided by M. I. Balonov, Institute of Radiation Hygiene, St. Petersburg, Russia.


Review
Chernobyl: Consequences of the Disaster for the Population and the Environment

Yablokov AV, Nesterenko VB, and Nesterenko AV
Ann NY Acad Sci 1189 (2009)

This volume of Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences is a translation of a book originally published in Russian by three scientists from Russia and Belarus, and is mainly based on publications in Russian-language journals and other sources on the consequences of the Chernobyl accident for human health and the environment. The original Russian publication was published in 2008.

In the opinion of this reviewer, the authors unfortunately did not appropriately analyze the content of the Russian-language publications, for example, to separate them into those that contain scientific evidence and those based on hasty impressions and ignorant conclusions. Therefore, the main conclusions of Yablokov, Nesterenko, and Nesterenko are the odd mixture of facts (e.g., increased thyroid cancer in children in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine) and uncorroborated statements of mass mortality in emergency and recovery workers caused by radiation, abnormalities in newborns, etc. An inexperienced reader will have difficulty in separating these conclusions, and the present review is intended to assist him/her in doing so.

The list of cited references in the translation (Yablokov et al. 2009) indicates that the authors avoided the most respectable papers of Russian-language authors, which received serious international peer review and were published in respected journals. These hundreds of journal articles by authors from Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine were analyzed in detail by teams of independent international experts and became the basis for generalizations of the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR 1988, 2000, 2008) and the UN Chernobyl Forum (IAEA 2006, WHO 2006, UNDP 2002, Forum 2006). Careful analysis of already peer-reviewed publications with the final separation of “grain from the chaff” is the key to the objectivity of the findings of these international bodies. It is no wonder that the UNSCEAR reports are the most authoritative source of modern knowledge––in its own way, “the bible of radiation medicine.”

In the volume under review, Prof. Yablokov and his coauthors give extensive references to the media, commercial publications, websites of public organizations, or even unidentified ones, to justify their ideas. These are also the source for statistical data on demography, morbidity, etc., which is not considered seriously by the scientific community. Most of the references are conference proceedings, abstracts of theses, and brochures in Russian, all hitherto unknown to the world and hardly accessible even in the former Soviet Union, not to mention the rest of the world. Thus, independent verification or clarification of the data presented by the authors is virtually impossible.

The most impressive is Section 2 on the methodology of the book (written by A.V. Yablokov). It begins with the author’s reasonable reproach to the Soviet authorities on classifying the data during the first years after the accident, as well as on the unreliability of official health statistics. The authors also mark the deficit in dosimetric measurements, particularly individual ones, thus complicating reconstruction of radiation doses received by subjects of epidemiological studies. Further, the author insists on changing the current radiation-epidemiological methodology and, in fact, on the rejection of analytical studies, because they require reconstruction of individual doses, which the author does not trust.

Instead, the author proposes so-called ecological or geographic technologies, in which health indicators in areas with similar environmental, social, and economic conditions, but with different levels of radioactivity, are compared. However, international experience in radiation epidemiology has repeatedly demonstrated that this approach leads to erroneous conclusions, and the volume under our review demonstrates this once again.

The second proposal by A.V. Yablokov––to observe the changes in health indicators over time and relate them to the account of radiation––is also very popular among profanes. However, in late 1980s and especially in the 1990s, enormous socio-economic changes took place in this country and led to a serious shortage of health care system, and to increased morbidity and mortality. To identify radiogenic effects over this background is a complex scientific task that cannot be solved by simple methods of comparison of past and current health indicators.

Radiation is a relatively weak carcinogen, and its health effects in the population are identified with great difficulties and only with internationally recognized analytical techniques with individual account not only for the dose but also for other influencing factors. The only exception was the post-Chernobyl radiogenic thyroid cancer in children, because the doses from radioiodine were so high (up to tens of Gray), and the spontaneous incidence rate in children is so low (a few cases per million children per year) that the effect of radiation was detected both within analytical and ecological studies (UNSCEAR 2008).

In fact, the “Yablokov’s Manifesto” on denial of the analytical approach and unconditional trust in the ecological or geographical research methods with primitive statistical tests puts an end to the reliability of all conclusions of the medical Chapter II.

Biased selection of articles and the author’s conclusions are predetermined by his belief in a totally negative effect of any dose of radiation, and he is not embarrassed with brutal contradiction of the selected works and his own conclusions to the century-long experience in radiobiology and radiation medicine. Each section ends with conclusions about the catastrophic impact of Chernobyl radiation on human health, including increasing death rates. The value of this review is not zero, but negative, as its bias is obvious only to specialists, while inexperienced readers may well be put into deep error.

Describing the “radiogenic” mortality, the author forgets that we are all mortal, including the Chernobyl workers and the population of the contaminated areas, and attributes mortality mainly to the impact of radiation. Meanwhile, quite accurate data of the Russian national registry suggest that mortality rates of the Chernobyl workers standardized by age and sex are not higher but lower than the one for the population of Russia (Ivanov et al. 2004). Yablokov’s assessment for the mortality from Chernobyl fallout of about one million (!) before 2004 (Subsection 7.7) puts this book in a range of rather science fiction than science. It is obvious that if such a mass death of people occurred, it would not have remained unnoticed, even more because it is not so much about the population of the three countries, than about the rest of Europe and even countries outside Europe (!).

It is important to note the difference between the initial positions of epidemiology experts and of the author. Experts are seeking hardly identified indications of at least minimal provable radiation effects in the population and workers in order to clarify the radiation risk factors for radiation protection. And there are no real successes, except for the cases of thyroid cancer in children and leukaemia in the most exposed workers. There are no longer any discussions of broad-scale radiogenic morbidity and especially mortality in population and workers. Broad-scale medical and demographic research during 25 years since the accident has not revealed those, nor are they expected to be found in the future. However, A.V.Yablokov is still seeking to convince the public of mass lesions of the population with the Chernobyl radiation.

Chapter IV examines some issues of radiation protection of the population, mainly in Belarus, where two other authors, V.B. Nesterenko and A.V. Nesterenko, actively worked. In conditions of exposure to low doses, which are typical for the major part of the population of Belarus after the Chernobyl accident, the authors tested preparations of pectin and recommended them for widespread use in order to reduce radionuclide content in children (Hill et al. 2007). Here the optimization procedure for this radiation protection action is clearly lacking (ICRP 2006), with weighing the benefits of the drug (reducing radiation risk) and possible damage to health (whether this drug has been checked for chronic use?), the costs of the measure and its perception by population. At low doses of internal radiation, and even smaller doses prevented, the result of the optimization analysis is not obvious at all.

Doubtful are recommendations to eat food products rich in potassium and calcium, and drink plenty of fluids to reduce incorporation of cesium-137 and strontium-90. Inexperienced readers should be protected against these unwarranted recommendations.

The statement that internal exposure levels in the population increase since 1994 contradicts the general trend and monitoring data in Russia. On the contrary, the levels are gradually decreasing with the half-life between 10 and 20 years (IAEA 2006). In contrast to the opinions of the authors, international experts showed that the formation of americium-241 in the environment does not amount to a serious radiological problem (IAEA 2006, UNSCEAR 2008). From the standpoint of modern radiation protection, the need for countermeasures will hardly exist longer than a few decades (the authors write about centuries), and the area where they will be justified will gradually decrease.

The Chernobyl accident was indeed the major man-made disaster, which led to numerous harmful effects in the environment, public health, and public life. Professional scientific community patiently and carefully examines these implications and draw lessons from what has happened. There are no reasonable grounds to suspect the modern community of experts in concealing the facts. Conversely, professional epidemiologists are hunters for scientific facts, and a proven radiation-induced effect is the most coveted scientific production. Intervention of incompetent people, although having academic titles, in this delicate process prevents adequate public information and decision making by authorities responsible for protecting the population.

M. I. BALONOV
Institute of Radiation Hygiene, St. Petersburg, Russia

References

Forum 2006. Chernobyl ́s Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-economic Impacts and Recommendations to the Governments of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine. The Chernobyl Forum: 2003–2005 (2006). http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Booklets/Chernobyl/chernobyl.pdf

Hill et al. 2007. P. Hill, M. Schläger, V. Vogel et al. Studies on the current 137Cs body burden of children in Belarus – can the dose be further reduced? Rad. Prot. Dosim., V. 125, No. 1–4, pp. 523–526 (2007).

IAEA 2006. International Atomic Energy Agency. Environmental Consequences of the Chernobyl Accident and their Remediation: Twenty Years of Experience. Report of the UN Chernobyl Forum Expert Group “Environment”. Vienna: IAEA; 2006. http://www- pub.iaea.org/MTCD/Publications/PDF/Pub1239_web.pdf

Ivanov et al. 2004. Ivanov VK, Tsyb AF, Ivanov SI and Pokrovsky VV. Medical Radiological Consequences of the Chernobyl Catastrophe in Russia. Estimation of Radiation Risks. St. Petersburg: Nauka, 338p. (2004).

UNDP 2002. United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Children’s Fund. Human Consequences of the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident – A Strategy for Recovery. (2002).

UNSCEAR 1988. United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. Effects and Risks of Ionizing Radiation (1988 Report to the General Assembly, with Annexes); Annexes D and G. United Nations: New York (1988).

UNSCEAR 2000. United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR). Sources and Effects of Ionizing Radiation (2000 Report to the General Assembly, with Annexes); Annex J. New York: United Nations; Volume II: 451–566 (2000).

UNSCEAR 2008. United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. Sources and Effects of Ionizing Radiation (2008 Report to the General Assembly, with Annexes); Annex D: Health Effects due to Radiation from the Chernobyl Accident. United Nations: New York, Volume II (2011). http://www.unscear.org/unscear/en/publications.html

WHO 2006. World Health Organisation. Health Effects of the Chernobyl Accident and Special Health Care Programmes. Geneva: WHO (2006). http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2006/9241594179_eng.pdf

Yablokov A.V, Nesterenko V.B, Nesterenko A.V. “Сhernobyl. Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment”, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, V. 1181 (2009). http://www.amazon.com/Chernobyl-Consequences-Catastrophe- Environment-Sciences/dp/1573317578

End Balonov review


I can understand why the current editor of Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences posted the review as a link in a format that is virtually invisible to search engine indexing. The Balonov review should have led to all kinds of questions about the decision to publish, the decision to allow free reproduction – in a nicely formatted PDF with cover pages listing the entire NYAS board of governors seemingly giving their endorsement – and the continuing decision to refuse to publicly repudiate the book as completely unscientific.

As Balonov said,

“The value of this review is not zero, but negative, as its bias is obvious only to specialists, while inexperienced readers may well be put into deep error.

Yablokov’s assessment for the mortality from Chernobyl fallout of about one million (!) before 2004 (Subsection 7.7) puts this book in a range of rather science fiction than science.”

Free speech and freedom of the press are incredibly important to the continued functioning and prosperity of a democracy, so I would never suggest any effort to stop reproduction or distribution of Yablokov’s Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment. The answer to a biased, outrageous or dishonest publication is to produce responsive publications that are honestly presented and made at least as available as the publication it is trying to discredit.

Please help me propagate this response. My voice is no where near as loud as Wasserman’s or as seductive as Bonnie Raitt’s, but these days it is not hard to get dissenting opinions amplified – with a little help from social media friends.

Additional Reading

Caroline Webb – Chernobyl and the New York Academy of Sciences

    Materials relating to the decision by the New York Academy of Sciences to publish a non-science book that claims nearly a million deaths from the Chernobyl accident in contradiction of the science of radiobiology.

About Rod Adams

34 Responses to “Devastating review of Yablokov’s Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment”

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  1. Michael Pelletier says:

    http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Web%20Search/thread?tid=76b63f8ea4dff0cc&hl=en

    Yes indeed, we do index the text of PDF files. This is fairly easy to test:

    1. Find a PDF file in our results (try adding .pdf to your query if you’re having trouble).

    2. Open either the PDF itself or the HTML version of the doc and locate a phrase in the doc that wouldn’t likely appear in a title, heading, etc. (hint: footnote text is a good candidate).

    3. Perform a search for that phrase (enclosing the phrase in quotes may help) to verify that the PDF returns as a result. Now, depending on the phrase, the PDF may not be a top result. To verify that it is indeed included somewhere our results for that phrase, add a site: search to your query. That is, search for [ “the phrase you’re testing” site:example.com ], where “example.com” is the domain hosting the PDF you’re looking for (note that brackets indicate a search query; you don’t actually need to include brackets in your search).

    Here’s an example: Many restaurants offer PDF versions of their menu or nutritional content online….

    1. Choosing the restaurant P.F. Chang’s, I found the following file from their site in our index: http://www.pfchangs.com/pdfs/nutritionals2008.pdf

    2. I located the phrase “products containing gluten are prepared in our kitchens” in the text of the PDF.

    3. I then did a new search: [ “products containing gluten are prepared in our kitchens” site:pfchangs.com ]. Sure enough, http://www.pfchangs.com/pdfs/nutritionals2008.pdf returned as a result for that query.
    =============

  2. Jason C says:

    Rod, in your sixth paragraph the link which reads “This volume is out of stock…” links to this very post. Did you mean for that to occur?

    As stated above, yes, Google does crawl PDF’s and it won’t matter how the document downloads or displays. If they wanted to provide a link but not have it indexed then they would use the noindex attribute in the a tag link. There are no special attributes on that particular PDF link.

    • Rod Adams says:

      Link issue is fixed. You technical guys are spoiling my fun at having found what I thought was a pretty interesting way to hide something in plain sight. Darn – the file does get indexed and, with the right search terms, will show up relatively near the top of a list on Google.

      However, it should be pretty clear that the NYAS is not seeking to make Balonov’s review a prominent topic of discussion. I have not talked to my investigative friends about this yet, but the document has been posted for 50 days without them mentioning it to me. I suspect they are not aware of Balonov’s critique even though they have been in relatively frequent communication with NYAS on this very topic.

  3. Joel Riddle says:

    This is off-topic here, but this being about an ongoing saga reminds me of the challenge made by Steve Kirsch and others to debate the MIT Fuel Cycle studies conclusions. Is there any update on that particular sage?

  4. What I find ironic, is that many pro-nukes have similar biases (in the opposite direction) when they claim there is zero risk to low level radiation.

    They have no problem publicizing a review like Balanov’s when it denounces an exaggerated claim associated with radiation effects.

    But when Balanov’s (or a similar) scientifically accurate opinion denounces an exaggerated claim of zero risks…the excuses and rationalizations and fallacies start to fly!

    • But when Balanov’s (or a similar) scientifically accurate opinion denounces an exaggerated claim of zero risks…the excuses and rationalizations and fallacies start to fly!

      Can you provide an example of this?

    • katana0182 says:

      This is because the science as to the effects of low level exposures is completely unsettled. LNT has no empirical basis but is entirely hypothetical and is only used because it’s conservative and precautionary.

      As there’s no scientific basis for LNT, discussing alternative hypotheses of the biological effects of low level exposures to radiation is part of scientific inquiry.

    • Bill Hannahan says:

      Regarding this;
      “many pro-nukes have similar biases (in the opposite direction) when they claim there is zero risk to low level radiation.”

      Bob, some claim that low level radiation can be beneficial. Please review Dr. Bernard Cohen’s entire video and point out his errors.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1sUz8u_SL4

      • Rob Simoneau says:

        Does anybody read Dr. Bernard Cohen’s materials he frames his discussion within a larger pollution context and does not bother to normalize his data; conclusion nuclear good vs. coal, oil and gas bad.

  5. @ Craig S.

    I should have elaborated…to get the full context see both of Rod’s blogs on that date. My comments point out numerous fallacies in both blogs and I explain why they are fallacies.

    You have to actually read the blogs, watch the embedded videos, and read the comments in both blogs for it to make sense.

    But in a nutshell, Balanov’s opinion reflects the current scientific consensus. I agree with it. I support that opinion as I did on 10/15/11.

    But on 10/15/11, Rod had cherry-picked a scientist who basically said there was zero risk associated with low level radiation. Today, Rod offers us the scientific consensus argument against Yablokov.

    But he (and others) wouldn’t accept it on 10/15/11.

  6. Here’s a question I have been wondering about lately. Why do many anti-nukes accept the scientific consensus on global warming and reject the few extremist naysayers; but the same group rejects the scientific consensus on the risks and effects of radiation, and only believes extremist naysayers?

    The Biological Effects of Low Level Exposures (BELLE) Committee has discussed this question. Their January 2009 newsletter features two articles that together provide an excellent overview. Link:

    Hormesis, Non-Linearity and Risk Communication
    http://www.belleonline.com/newsletters/volume15/vol15-1.pdf

    In the feature article, David Ropeik notes that decisions about risk are based on subjective feelings at least as much as objective data. This is not necessarily irrational, and may be highly rational in light of a person’s experience and viewpoint.

    Ropeik lists five main factors in risk perception:

    Trust – do we trust the messenger?
    Choice – Can we choose whether or not we are exposed to the risk?
    Natural or Human-Made – Most people are more afraid of human-made risks.
    Dread – Which risks are likely to be more painful?
    Uncertainty – Is it tangible? Can most people understand it?

    As you can see, nuclear power has a disadvantage on all of these factors. Messages are usually communicated by engineers and industry reps who generally give the most optimistic interpretation. We can’t choose whether we are exposed to radiation from accidents. Nuclear radiation is human-made. Cancer from radiation is painful. Radiation is invisible and difficult to understand.

    The second article by Jaap Hanekamp addresses a deeper cultural level. Hanekamp traces the change in Western attitudes toward technology, from progress to precaution. Progressives favor science, development, and change; precautionaries favor intuition, safety, and conservation. This philosophical change was a long time in the making and will remain controversial for a long time.

    These two article offer the beginnings of a communication approach for nuclear energy and radiation risks. Pro-nukes first must overcome the inherent disadvantages in risk perception that nuclear energy has. Second, the subjective opinions of anti-nukes must be recognized and incorporated in two-way empathic exchange. Third, the rift between progressives and precautionaries must be overcome, either through more persuasive exchanges or new alternative models that bridge or bypass the rift.

    • donb says:

      Ropeik lists five main factors in risk perception:

      Trust – do we trust the messenger?
      Choice – Can we choose whether or not we are exposed to the risk?
      Natural or Human-Made – Most people are more afraid of human-made risks.
      Dread – Which risks are likely to be more painful?
      Uncertainty – Is it tangible? Can most people understand it?

      The middle three points are the most interesting.
      Choice: Fossil fuels release dangerous wastes into the open environment (including radioactive wastes) in the course of normal operation. All in all, this is a win for nuclear.
      Natural or Human-made: The fine particulates, mercury, SO2, NOx, etc. from fossil fuels are every bit “Human-made” as are radioactive fission products. On the other hand, they are all “natural”, in that they are all the results of the various forces of nature.
      Dread: Watching someone die of an asthma attack caused by the burning of fossil fuels is pretty dreadful.

      The first and the last are more difficult. The demonization of all things nuclear by opponents has cause a loss of trust. It will take a number of things to win trust. Scientific truth is needed by is not enough. Active, positive promotion is needed. The risks of the alternatives needs to be laid out clearly.

      The uncertainty part is difficult as well. People have everyday contact with fossil fuels. Nuclear is “hidden away” inside containment buildings and reactors. However, the uncertainty mostly revolves around radioactivity. Every classroom where science is taught should have a Geiger counter. The students should be encouraged to use it, even if it is to just have it on and clicking away with nothing around it except the open air. Encourage the students to bring in rocks from the back yard, bananas and oranges, luminous dial watches, perhaps even an old smoke alarm. The emphasis needs to be that these low levels of radiation are harmless.

    • Atomikrabbit says:

      The NYT had an interesting Greenwire article on this topic a few days ago – Humans ‘Wired’ for Terror Over Remote Radiation Threats

      http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2011/03/18/18greenwire-humans-wired-for-terror-over-remote-radiation-61371.html

  7. James Greenidge says:

    Good thing the weekend’s coming up because that’s how long I’ll need to graze that extract. Thanks for the white paper and the links, Rod.

    But I have to sadly snicker at the quality of science knowledge among the media, most whom don’t know the difference between a galaxy and solar system. I remember back when WCBS-TV and WNBC-TV here in NYC went bananas over Chernobyl and were SWEARING that the whole region around there was doomed to resemble the “forbidden zone” desert out of Planet of The Apes — yes they actually voiced that reference (old sci sage Jim Jensen there!)! You know, what really pulls the curtain back on the highly creative anti-nuke trolls here — especially those who claim to live in Russia — is that were there such legions of mutations and birth defects around Chernobyl, don’t you think the pro anti-nuclear groups and “Animal” and “Green Planet” cable channels would go totally bonkers making hay all day and night about it and plaster such gross sights all over the Times and respectable news sites out there? How do you say “troll” in Russian?

    Just saw another Conoco-Phulips natural has commerical with college students clucking how LNG is oh so kind with “the planet” and all. Groan! At least Con Edison here has some mildly defensive Indian Point PSAs going!

    James Greenidge

    • Atomikrabbit says:

      James – The promos are being done by Indian Point’s owner, Entergy, not the power distribution company, Con Ed. Should see some spots hosted by Giuliani soon, for what that’s worth. They should have begun this campaign ten years ago.

      I saw a reporter on the Westchester station, “HyperLocal 12” a few weeks ago say with a straight face, and without contradiction, that if the 9-11 terrorists had chosen the power plant as a target instead of NYC, “hundreds of thousands would have died from radiation sickness”.

      Maybe he had been reading Annals of NYAS.

  8. Ben Heard says:

    Legendary Rod, thanks for that post, I’m going to pull some quotes from that review and make a post of my own, with link to here, to make the same call to NYAS to actually come out with a firm and clear statement of error in putting their credibility behind this.

    As for the little discussion above about low level radiation risk, I recently had cause to review what WHO have said about the Chernobyl risks. It’s worth a read to see how incredibly hard they have to work to get a modelled mortality figure of 9,000 from the accident. Your garden variety anti however will just quote the figure with none of the extreme caution exercised by WHO. Link for interested readers http://decarbonisesa.com/2011/10/09/a-new-age-for-nuclear-dont-hold-your-breath/

  9. S.Jargin says:

    Plagiarism in the field of environmental science

    The text by M.I. Balonov published here “Review Chernobyl: Consequences of the Disaster for the Population and the Environment Yablokov AV, Nesterenko VB, and Nesterenko AV” (Atomic Insights http://atomicinsights.com/2011/10/devastating-review-of-yablokovs-chernobyl-consequences-of-the-catastrophe-for-people-and-the-environment.html ) contains several borrowings from my papers [1,2] without acknowledgement of the sources and without due references. In particular the following text fragment has been borrowed almost verbatim: “In the volume under review, Prof. Yablokov and his coauthors give extensive references to the media, commercial publications, websites of public organizations, or even unidentified ones, to justify their ideas… Most of the references are conference proceedings, abstracts of theses, and brochures in Russian, all hitherto unknown to the world and hardly accessible even in the former Soviet Union, not to mention the rest of the world.” (Balonov M.I.)

    References
    1. Jargin SV. Validity of thyroid cancer incidence data following the Chernobyl accident. Health Phys. 2011;101(6):754-7.

    2. Jargin SV. Overestimation of Chernobyl consequences: poorly substantiated information published. Radiat Environ Biophys. 2010;49(4):743-5

    • S.Jargin says:

      I am sorry for the above formulation. The reference in (1) was certainly lost inadvertently. Professor Balonov has made due references to (2) in his new article (3).

      1. Balonov MI. Review. “Chernobyl: Consequences of the Disaster for the Population and the Environment Yablokov AV, Nesterenko VB, and Nesterenko AV. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1189 (2009)” The NYAS Web Site. Posted 1 September 2010. Available at: http://www.nyas.org/Publications/Annals/Detail.aspx?cid=f3f3bd16-51ba-4d7b-a086-753f44b3bfc1 (accessed May 14, 2012)
      2. Jargin SV. Overestimation of Chernobyl consequences: poorly substantiated information published. Radiat Environ Biophys 2010;49:743-5.
      3. Balonov MI. On protecting the inexperienced reader from Chernobyl myths. J Radiol Prot. 2012;32(2):181-189.

  10. S.Jargin says:

    I am sorry for the above formulation. The reference in (1) was certainly lost inadvertently. Professor Balonov has made due references to (2), from where had been borrowed a text fragment, in his next article (3). There were no borrowings from (4).

    References

    1. Balonov MI. Review. “Chernobyl: Consequences of the Disaster for the Population and the Environment Yablokov AV, Nesterenko VB, and Nesterenko AV. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1189 (2009)” The NYAS Web Site. Posted 1 September 2010. Available at: http://www.nyas.org/Publications/Annals/Detail.aspx?cid=f3f3bd16-51ba-4d7b-a086-753f44b3bfc1 (accessed May 14, 2012)

    2. Jargin SV. Overestimation of Chernobyl consequences: poorly substantiated information published. Radiat Environ Biophys 2010;49:743-5.

    3. Balonov MI. On protecting the inexperienced reader from Chernobyl myths. J Radiol Prot. 2012;32(2):181-189.

    4. Jargin SV. Validity of thyroid cancer incidence data following the Chernobyl accident. Health Phys. 2011;101(6):754-7.

  11. S.Jargin says:

    In this connection, another article by Prof. Balonov (1) should be commented. The abstract, which is freely available online, contains the following phrase: “Apart from the dramatic increase in thyroid cancer incidence among those exposed at a young age and some increase of leukaemia and solid cancer in most exposed workers, there is no clearly demonstrated increase in the somatic diseases due to radiation.” However, in the Chernobyl Forum publication (2), quoted in (1), leukaemia and solid cancers (other than thyroid) are not discussed. In another Chernobyl Forum publication (3) it is stated that “apart from the dramatic increase in thyroid cancer incidence among those exposed at a young age, there is no clearly demonstrated increase in the incidence of solid cancers or leukaemia due to radiation in the most affected populations” and further “There have been many post-Chernobyl studies of leukaemia and cancer morbidity in the populations of contaminated areas in the three countries. Most studies, however, had methodological limitations and lacked statistical power. There is therefore no convincing evidence at present that the incidence of leukaemia or cancer (other than thyroid) has increased in children, those exposed in-utero, or adult residents of the contaminated areas.” (3) Admittedly, evaluation of the health effects was not the main goal of the IAEA Chernobyl Forum publications. In the Report of the UN Chernobyl Forum Expert Group “Health” (4) it was commented that “there is currently no evidence to evaluate whether a measurable risk and leukemia exists among the exposed as adults in the general population… With regard to liquidators, there is clearly a need to clarify the existing observations” (4). Furthermore it was concluded that “there is no evidence of increased risk of non-thyroid solid cancers resulting from Chernobyl” (4). The same, in principle, is said in the text of the article (1). The above-cited statement from the open access abstract by Balonov (1) is therefore substantiated neither in his article (1) nor in the Chernobyl Forum publications directly or indirectly quoted in his paper entitled “The Chernobyl Forum: major findings and recommendations” (1) thus being potentially misleading. The counterpart of the “most exposed workers” (1) in the general population, middle-aged men from working classes, are poorly covered by medical services; so that regular medical checkups predictably result in incidence increase of different diseases.

    References
    1. Balonov MI (2007) The Chernobyl Forum: major findings and recommendations. J Environ Radioact 96:6-12
    2. IAEA. Environmental Consequences of the Chernobyl Accident and their Remediation: Twenty Years of Experience. Report of the UN Chernobyl Forum Expert Group “Environment”. Vienna, 2006.
    3. IAEA. Chernobyl Forum, 2003-2005. Second revised version. Chernobyl’s legacy: health, environmental and socio-economic impacts and recommendations to the governments of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine.Vienna, 2006.
    4. WHO. Health effects of the Chernobyl accident. Report of the UN Chernobyl Forum Expert Group “Health”. Bennet B, Repacholi M, Carr Z (Editors). Geneva, 2006.

  12. S.Jargin says:

    Unfortunately, references are sometimes “lost”: It is not necessarily plagiarism; and I am sorry if this term has been associated with the authors, who had lost a reference inadvertently (1,2). However, if a text fragment or numerical data were borrowed, and there is no reference, it would be better to publish an erratum.

    1. Jargin SV. Inadequate citation. BMJ Rapid Response, published online on 12 March 2012: http://www.bmj.com/content/339/bmj.b3813/rr/572825
    2. Jargin SV. Plagiarism in radiology: A substitute for importation of foreign handbooks.
    J Med Imaging Radiat Oncol. 2010;54:50-2.

  13. S.Jargin says:

    Chernobyl-related thyroid cancer: aggressiveness vs. late detection

    Aggressiveness or invasiveness of Chernobyl-related thyroid cancer (TC) was reported in many publications [1-7]. Some more are referenced in [8]; while in this particular study no increased aggressiveness of TC developed after radiotherapy was demonstrated [8]. The following was stated in [9]: “Despite early reports suggesting that the paediatric thyroid cancer cases that developed after exposure to Chernobyl fallout were particularly aggressive, it now seems that the initial presentation and early clinical course of most of these cases are very similar to… non-radiation-associated pediatric thyroid cancers…” Furthermore, “at diagnosis, 60-70% of the Chernobyl-related pediatric thyroid cancers had clinically evident cervical lymph node metastases” [9]. These figures are comparable with some data on pediatric TC [10] and higher than metastasizing percentages reported by others researchers [11,12], being high enough not to contradict to the concept of aggressiveness of Chernobyl-related TC or, alternatively, of an advanced stage at diagnosis. Another statement from [9]:”With regard to the size of the primary tumor, 77% were greater than 1 cm, suggesting that these were not incidental thyroid cancers detected by aggressive screening” can be understood as an argument against the screening-effect. In fact, mass screening detected not only small incidental cancers but also advanced TC, previously neglected because of the incomplete coverage of the population by medical checkups before the accident, shortage of modern equipment, professional literature, etc. [13] This concept is confirmed by the reports that TC found at an earlier date after the Chernobyl accident had on average greater diameter and were less differentiated than TC detected later [5], and that “increasing latency” was associated with a decrease in invasiveness [7]. In conclusion, some features of Chernobyl-related cancer are associated not with ionizing radiation but with longer disease duration and tumor progression because of the on average later detection of malignancies in the former Soviet Union [14].

    References
    1. Nikiforov Y, Gnepp DR. Pediatric thyroid cancer after the Chernobyl disaster. Pathomorphologic study of 84 cases (1991-1992) from the Republic of Belarus. Cancer 1994;74:748-66.
    2. Ito M, Yamashita S, Ashizawa K, et al. Histopathological characteristics of childhood thyroid cancer in Gomel, Belarus. Int J Cancer 1996;65:29-33.
    3. Pacini F, Vorontsova T, Molinaro E, et al. Thyroid consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Acta Paediatr Suppl 1999;88:23-7.
    4. Tronko MD, Bogdanova TI, Komissarenko IV, et al. Thyroid carcinoma in children and adolescents in Ukraine after the Chernobyl nuclear accident: statistical data and clinicomorphologic characteristics. Cancer 1999;86:149-56.
    5. Williams ED, Abrosimov A, Bogdanova T, et al. Thyroid carcinoma after Chernobyl latent period, morphology and aggressiveness. Br J Cancer 2004;90:2219-24.
    6. Boltze C, Riecke A, Ruf CG, et al. Sporadic and radiation-associated papillary thyroid cancers can be distinguished using routine immunohistochemistry. Oncol Rep 2009;22:459-67.
    7. Tronko M, Bogdanova T, Voskoboynyk L, et al. Radiation induced thyroid cancer: fundamental and applied aspects. Exp Oncol 2010;32:200-4.
    8. Naing S, Collins BJ, Schneider AB. Clinical behavior of radiation-induced thyroid cancer: factors related to recurrence. Thyroid 2009;19:479-85.
    9. Tuttle RM, Vaisman F, Tronko MD. Clinical presentation and clinical outcomes in Chernobyl-related paediatric thyroid cancers: what do we know now? What can we expect in the future? Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol) 2011;23:268-75.
    10. Feinmesser R, Lubin E, Segal K, Noyek A. Carcinoma of the thyroid in children – a review. J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab 1997;10:561-8.
    11. Gow KW, Lensing S, Hill DA, et al. Thyroid carcinoma presenting in childhood or after treatment of childhood malignancies: An institutional experience and review of the literature. J Pediatr Surg 2003;38:1574-80.
    12. Jarzab B, Handkiewicz-Junak D. Differentiated thyroid cancer in children and adults: same or distinct disease? Hormones (Athens) 2007;6:200-9.
    13. Jargin SV. Validity of thyroid cancer incidence data following the Chernobyl accident. Health Phys. 2011;101(6):754-7.
    14. Jargin S. Some aspects of medical education in the former Soviet Union. Sao Paulo Med J. 2012;130(1):65-6.

  14. Alfred Nassim says:

    How can these people criticise the work of Yablokov and the many others without ever visiting that region and its numerous hospitals that have an extraordinary number of patients suffering from cancers?

    I have known only 4 middle-aged ladies from Belarus and the Bryansk region of Russia. Three of these ladies have had ovarian cancer and two have died so far. I realise this is not a scientific sample, but the chances of this being entirely random is extraordinarily small. In Western Europe where only 1.4% of women are at risk of being diagnosed as being with ovarian cancer during their lifetime. This is a 1:500,000 probability event.

    http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/ovary.html

  15. Alfred Nassim says:

    Rod Adams,

    Here is a published article from someone who made many visits to the Chernobyl region to take measurements:

    “Elevated frequency of cataracts in birds from chernobyl.”

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23935827

    Here is the website of the Chernobyl Research Initiative

    http://cricket.biol.sc.edu/chernobyl/Chernobyl_Research_Initiative/Introduction.html

    Even the insects – far hardier than humans – are having a hard time of it 20 years later:

    “Chernobyl ‘shows insect decline’ ”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7949314.stm

    It goes without saying that fewer insects has a dramatic impact all the way up the food chains.

    The remarkable thing is that people like Yablokov and Mousseau are working on a shoe-string. Those who are in favour of nuclear power certainly do have the big bucks.

  16. Karen says:

    The pro-nuclear people consistently underestimate or neglect the massive influence of economic-political factors underlying and sustaining the pro-radiation agenda.

    Perhaps the clearest sign thereof is Balonov’s statement, “There are no reasonable grounds to suspect the modern community of experts in concealing the facts.” Irrefutable proof of that is abound and anyone who, in today’s times, still believes in the integrity of the political and scientific community is deluded, ignorant, or probably works for them.

    Anyone who understands how the nations dedicated to nuclear power, medical radiation, and militarism using radioactive weaponry, such as Japan and the US, have been obfuscating the truth about the real toxicity of ioninzing radiation for decades (discussed in The Mammogram Myth by Rolf Hefti), will not be surprised by Balonov’s dismissal of the work as he’s an instrument of the oppressive mainstream establishment. It’s business as usual and should be ignored because it is pure propaganda.

    The real danger and damage caused by Chernobyl and Fukushima are much higher than the officialdom wants the public to believe.

    • Rod Adams says:

      @Karen

      Have you ever considered the probability that individuals, corporations and nations dedicated to fossil fuel power have a strong motivation for instilling fear of all things radioactive? Compared to the hydrocarbon establishment, the “nuclear industry” is a gnat.

      However, every large nuclear power plant removes the need to burn about 170 million cubic feet of natural gas every single day. If coal is the comparison, a large nuclear plant eliminates the need to burn between 2.5 and 4 million tons of coal per year, depending on the grade of coal used.

      Don’t you think that the potential loss of sales revenue is a powerful motivator for propaganda?

      During the past couple of years, when fear of radiation has resulted in Japan keeping 50 operable reactors shutdown, producing no electricity, that nation has purchased an additional $50 billion worth of diesel fuel, liquified natural gas (LNG) and coal. Do you think that the people selling that fuel have any desire to see those reactors restarted?

      I think you and I share a distrust of the powers-that-be. Please think for a while about the information that I have shared and see if you cannot recognize that it may have some basis in reality.