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The Children of Chernobyl

The Ukraine Health Ministry claims that 125,000 Ukrainians have died from diseases related to the April 26, 1986 Chernobyl nuclear explosion. Troubling new reports reveal that the nuclear power accident has begun devastating its second generation of victims.

The children of the "liquidators" – men ordered to clear the smoking rubble and enclose the damaged reactor in a cement sarcophagus – are now experiencing mutation rates 600 percent higher than normal.

The nuclear industry has long claimed that there was no provable link between radiation exposure and genetic damage to offspring. The Chernobyl disaster suggests otherwise. The British newspaper, The Guardian, reports that "new findings show that the radiation from the stricken Ukrainian reactors affected the sperm of the fathers, leading to mutation in the DNA of the children."

Researchers at the Kupat Holim National Cancer Control Center in Haifa, Israel, have reported that "lower doses of radiation also produce mutations, suggesting that low-level occupational or medical exposure to radiation could double the mutation rate in offspring."

The Hidden Victims of Minsk

The corridor was too quiet for a place filled with young children. Then Margaret Bamford walked into one of the rooms. Squeezed tightly together, with barely space to walk in between, were rows of metal cots. In each lay a sick child, many silent with pain, most hideously deformed – only their eyes told of their suffering.

The staff of the orphanage in Minsk, Belarus, had warned her she might be shocked. But as assistant director of social services in West Sussex, England, Bamford had seen terrible things in her job and was confident she could handle it.

But she was wrong.

"One boy had tumors all over him. Another had spinal tumors and one girl had twisted limbs. There were Down Syndrome children with heart problems and a child with hydrocephalus," says Bamford.

"I’ve never seen anything like this. The deformities were terrible... I found myself literally hiding behind my camera. I couldn’t sleep for weeks afterwards."

Many of the 750,000 children estimated to be suffering from Chernobyl’s aftermath have thyroid problems. But the doctors cannot openly talk about this."

When I asked the doctors at a pediatric hospital about it, they were uncomfortable. The interpreter asked me not to discuss such matters. But the doctors did want to communicate. They were very willing to share the extent to which their impoverished country was not able to treat the ‘massive increase in our children’s ill health.’ They were keen that I took pictures and urged me to draw my own conclusions.

"It’s not only the children, it’s the parents, too. They’re so angry with the government for not giving information at a time that would have given them a chance to take preventative action. They feel guilty they don’t earn enough to buy drugs for their children and, in some cases, have had to abandon them."

Bamford has founded an organization called Children in Need in Eastern Europe to send money and medical supplies to orphanages and hospitals in the region. She also is trying to start a foster home program for some of the disabled Chernobyl children.

What You Can Do: Donations can be sent to: The Chernobyl Children’s Project Ltd.,[http://www.adiccp.org].

   

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