Horrifying injuries inflicted by Chernobyl – from mutations to ‘body collapsing’
The Chernobyl nuclear meltdown wreaked havoc and triggered panic across the world – with thousands still living with the consequences.
In 1986, one of the reactors at the power plant exploded and burned, emitting deadly radiation throughout the former Soviet Union.
While the UN estimates that just 50 deaths can be attributed to the disaster, it later predicted that a further 4,000 may die from the after-effects.
Thousands of people also suffered life-changing injuries after the disaster, which took place in the former Soviet Union in what is now Ukraine.
Fire crews who responded to the scene were unaware of the huge amounts of radiation they were being exposed to.
Within weeks of the meltdown, 29 power plant workers and firefighters had died from acute radiation syndrome.
Engineer Oleksiy Breus, a member of staff at the reactor, earlier told BBC Ukrainian: "I saw other colleagues who worked that night.
“Their skin had a bright red colour. They later died in hospital in Moscow."
"Radiation exposure, red skin, radiation burns and steam burns were what many people talked about… when I finished my shift, my skin was brown, as if I had a proper suntan all over my body.
“My body parts not covered by clothes – such as hands, face and neck – were red".
In total, 134 first responders were diagnosed with ARS, 47 of whom died.
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In severe cases, they suffered damage to the lining of intestines, infection and dehydration.
Professor Lydia Zablotska, from the University of California San Francisco, said: “Then, a couple days later, the circulatory system collapses so people start having blood volume issues and so forth.
“The whole body is essentially collapsing.”
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The accident affected millions of inhabitants in Ukraine and Belarus – even those who lived far from the scene.
In the first five years after the disaster, cases of cancer among children increased by more than 90% in Ukraine.
It is believed around 5,000 people developed thyroid cancer after being exposed to the radiation, many of whom were children.
Contaminated milk was sold in the region and kids subsequently got a dose of radioactive iodine.
The process itself obliterated thyroid cells and prevented blood supply with oxygen and food.
Survivors have also long feared that radiation exposure may have affected their sperm and eggs, potentially leaving their children with other genetic diseases.
However, a new study from the National Research Centre for Radiation Medicine in Kyiv, Ukraine, found no evidence that damage was passed to children – having screened 200 kids’ genes.
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The meltdown also took a heavy toll on the surrounding wildlife, with animals suffering genetic mutations.
Biologist Timothy Mousseau, from the University of South Carolina, discovered mutant bugs, birds and mice in the contaminated areas – including some with missing eyes.
He previously told DW: “The impact of radiation on rates of mutation, cancer and mortality varies a good deal by species.
“But statistically, there's a simple relationship with dose. Small dose, small effect; big dose, big effect. There doesn't appear to be a threshold below which there's no effect.
“Interestingly, organisms living in nature are much more sensitive to radiation than lab animals — comparing mice raised in labs and mice in the wild, exposed to identical levels of ionizing radiation, the mortality rate among wild mice is eight or 10 times that of lab mice.”
Scientists believe the zone around the former plant will not be habitable for up to 20,000 years.
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During the clear-up operation, helicopters, tanks, fire engines and trucks were utilised to clean radioactive debris and dump materials into the reactor.
Rather than clean and return the vehicles, authorities decided to keep them as far away from the public as possible.
Many of them are now lying dormant in the exclusion zone around the reactor site.
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