A survey refutes the increased morbidity or mortality rate of Chernobyl veterans
Kaja Rahu, who defended her doctoral thesis at the University of Tartu, found in her thesis that a quarter of a century after the Chernobyl disaster there is no proof that the small radiation doses received during the cleaning works have increased the morbidity or mortality rates of the veterans.
On 26 April 1986, there was an accident in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, after which the radioactive substances polluted the Northern Hemisphere. Approximately 350,000 people, the current Chernobyl veterans, were sent to clean up the most polluted areas in Ukraine, whereas over 17,000 of them were from the Baltic States. In her doctoral thesis the researcher at the National Institute for Health Development Kaja Rahu, who defended her thesis at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Tartu, concentrates on whether and how the work in the Chernobyl area has affected the health of the veterans.
The epidemiological survey in which Rahu mainly used the data from the cancer registers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania indicated that in 1986–2007 the cancer incidents among the veterans and the male population of the respective countries were equal. "The veterans were more often diagnosed with thyroid cancer, which is due to the screening conducted among them," said Rahu.
The health of Estonian veterans was more thoroughly handled — additional data was collected from the Causes of Death Registry and the database of the Health Insurance Fund. "The mortality rate of the veterans in 1986–2011 did not differ from the mortality rate of the male population of the country. However, it occurred that the suicide risk of veterans was 30% higher than among the male population," outlined Rahu.
Based on the analysis of the data from the Health Insurance Fund for years 2004–2012, it occurred that the general morbidity (without tumours) of the veterans and the male population was equal. "The most notable difference was related to thyroid diseases: the morbidity of veterans was 1.7 times higher, however, the morbidity rate was not higher among the men who were sent to the catastrophe region immediately after the disaster. It is probable that this increase in the mortality rate was not due to the radiation but it reflects the more thorough medical surveillance of the veterans," found Rahu.
Therefore, a quarter of a century after the Chernobyl disaster there is no proof that the small radiation doses received during the cleaning works have increased the morbidity or mortality rates of the veterans.
Kaja Rahu defended her doctoral thesis "Morbidity and mortality among Baltic Chernobyl clean-up workers: a register-based cohort study" at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Tartu on 28 August 2014.
The doctoral thesis was supervised by the leading researcher of the National Institute for Health Development Mati Rahu and the Professor of the Department of Public Health at the University of Tartu Anneli Uusküla.
The doctoral thesis is available in the DSpace environment of the University of Tartu.
Additional information: Anneli Uusküla, the Professor of the Department of Public Health at the University of Tartu, tel: +372 737 4195, + 372 518 3552, e-mail: anneli.uuskula [ät] ut.ee.