A Report on Activities of Collecting Information on Health Condition of Liquidators Engaged in Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Accident
X-ray computer tomography
Since the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident in 1986, research and investigations in the fields of Medicine, biology, physics have been carried out by many public and private groups visiting the spot. They have sought to provide supportive exchanges of information on the effects of radiation. The major focus of the research has been general residents who were externally exposed to radiation, and are suffering from chronic internal exposure. The firefighters and young soldiers on the reserve list (to be called liquidators hereafter) who were engaged in getting rid of radioactive materials right after the accident, whose health has been a subject of concern of many countries and various groups, were the first ones to suffer acute external exposure followed by chronic internal exposure. Recently, some reports indicate that amnesia and psychosomatic abnormalities have been identified. Data has begun to be gathered and this has brought about arguments in the academic circles in Chernobyl. The debates range from a theory that well-differentiated nerve cells, which have been thought to be radio-resistant, are directly injured by radiation, to a theory that the illness is due to stress, or to a theory that resulting sickness is due to the damage of the vascular system which gives nourishment to the brain-cells. None of thse has been established as a firm theory yet. Regardless of the resulting discussions or hypothesis, actual observation remains an important factor. The fact that various kinds of psycho-neurological abnormalities have been observed among the liquidators is being discussed by the specialists at the site as a fact known to all, whereas in Japan such information is scarce. On the other hand, psychosomatic cases such as the so-called Burabura-disease among atomic-bomb exposure cases have not been studied enough, and so this field has been an Achilles heel in the study of late effects of the atomic-bomb exposure. The results of interviews and exchanges of data and reference materials by the visits at several related organizations such as Moscow Research Istitute Psychiatry (Director: Prof. V. H. Krasnov). Institute Neurosurgery Academy of Medical Science of Ukraine (Director: Prof. Y. P. Zoozulya) and so on will be outlined here. The research carried out so far by each institute has turned out to be somewhat similar in result through the collected information gained from research institutions in Moscow and Kiev. It is recognized by many scientists and doctors that a follow-up survey is required on the health condition of the liquidators in their 46 20s to 50s at the time of the accident, but there have been few chances so far to see specific survey results. The number of liquidators from the Republics of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus is said to be between 400,000 and 500,000, many of whom have had somatic and psychological problems and social problems as well. Three to four years after the accident psycho-neurological disturbances came to stand out, and pilot study research began. The major theory is that psycho-neurological disturbances causing problems include depressive, neurosis, amnesia, chronic headache, degradation of concentration, sleep disturbance, impotence and so on, complicated by some physical abnormalities such as the disturbance of liver function, abnormal endocrine function, etc. The causes of these late-effects are said to be due to not only various kinds of radiation but also various kinds of heavy metals which were used in trying to put out the fire at the nuclear power plant or emitted from the nuclear power plant. The psycho-neurological disturbance is not effectively treated by medical drugs for psychopathia only, but in combination with somatic therapy better results may be obtained. It has become difficult for many of the liquidators of continue with normal social life, with higher rates of leaving work places or getting divorced among them. There are grave problems including social compensation (security) for the bereaved families of liquidators. Several years have already been spent there for the above research and investigations, and judging from limited information, only about 20.000 cases were examined in the investigation and less than 1.000 cases could provide detailed physical examinations from among 400,000 to 500,000 liquidators. Perhaps economic limitation is the cause, but the investigation and the measurements have just started to be carried out. How far or how universally the data gained so far will be applied to all the liquidators is still to be seen. Long term studies may reveal the larger picture of the lasting effects of exposure.
Departmental Bulletin Paper