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A Ukrainian family examines its harvested crops.
A Ukrainian family examines its harvested crops.

Continued: Chernobyl

“Thousands of children live in and consume locally grown foods from areas in the Ukraine where the soil is still contaminated with radioactive cesium,” said Svendsen, a research assistant professor in epidemiology and biostatistics.

“Hundreds of these children may grow up with lungs that have been damaged by chronic exposure to radioactive cesium,” he said. “The long-term prognosis of these children is poor, and many will likely develop significant respiratory problems as they age.”

The study was conducted in a farming area of the Ukraine, known as the Narodichesky district (about 50 miles from Chernobyl). The area, which received considerable fallout from the incident, became very poor, and soil studies found that the radioactive cesium levels were 1.5 – 44 times above what is considered normal in the United States, Svendsen said.

Because of their exposure to cesium in food and water, children from the Narodichesky district have been required since December 1986 to participate in a public-health intervention that includes a yearly medical screening. The goal of the Narodichi Children’s Cohort (NCC), as the participants are known, is to provide health screenings and treatment to children living in the Narodichesky district.

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