Skip to comments.Chernobyl Misc Mutation Articles
Posted on 05/06/2004 9:37:36 PM PDT by RussianConservative
Tour of modern day Chernobyl
These enourmous dandelions exhibit the classic symptom of "gigantism" from exposure to radiation.
Huge clump of dandelion leaves approximately 31" long found on a mountain about 4 ½ miles northwest of TMI (one of three found at this site). Three abnormally large dandelion plants were found in September 1984, within five feet of each other, in an area that was untouched since the days of the accident. It is not known if this plant had ever produced flowers.
Schools near TMI held contests for children to find the longest dandelion leaves.
These mutated dandelions are lying on a colored plastic sheet. 7. Over two dozen deformed dandelion flowers picked in a field across the driveway from young Marks home about 4 ½ miles north-northwest of TMI. Some stems were flat and solid, other were wide and hollow. Some flowers were very wide and oval shaped and others had multiple flower heads.
Misshapen Maple leaves with grossly deformed margins found in August 1987, approximately 6 ½ miles north-northwest direction from TMI. These were given to a botanist from Japan, Dr. Sadao Ichikawa, who said he found similar effects in Germany, after the Chernobyl accident in April of 1986. They lack nature's symmetry Another Rose and a full set of leaves is growing from the center of the rose. This is referred to as "vegetative proliferation in floral positions" There were no reproductive parts.
Four legged daddy-long-legger spider photographed on Sunday, July 27, 1996, about 6 ½ miles north-northwest direction. These spiders in a normal, healthy state have 8 legs. Following the accident at TMI, many insects disappeared for many years. In this location, there were no bumble bees, certain type caterpillars, or daddy-long-leg spiders for 10 to 15 years. Pheasant have disappeared as well as hop toads. Carpenter bees disappeared from the location where the 31"dandelion leaves were found, and many dead birds were found there shortly after the accident.
Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster Revisited Part one of a series By Roberta Crowell Barbalace
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In May 1996 a colleague sent me an article from Chemical and Engineering News (C&EN) about the Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident. I set it aside, thoroughly intending to write about it at a later time. I might have totally forgotten about it had I not unexpectedly encountered a young man from Belarus who provided a real face and a real personality that I needed to identify with the catastrophe. Blasa was a round faced lad probably about eleven years old visiting from Belarus. His English was about as fluent as my Russian was. Between us there were perhaps a couple of dozen words that we both understood. His host family explained that he was a survivor of Chernobyl and was visiting the United States through a project sponsored by a group of business men who wanted to give the children some relief from the stress that they experience daily as a result of the Chernobyl disaster. I had thought about possible increase in cancer and birth defects. Somehow, stress ten years after the accident never entered my mind. I started shuffling through my pile of potential articles and found the one that Jim Bley had sent. The facts were mind-boggling.
Chernobyl Disaster Recalled At 1:23 AM on April 26, 1986, two explosions ripped through the Unit 4 reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukraine. The reactor block and adjacent structure were wrecked by the initial explosion. Nearby buildings were ignited by burning graphite projectiles. Radioactive particles swept across the Ukraine, Belarus, the western portion of Russia and eventually spread across Europe and the whole Northern Hemisphere. The accident followed a safety experiment in which the plant was operated outside of its designed parameters at very low power and unfavorable cooling conditions. The graphite fires continued to burn for several days despite the fact that thousands of tons of boron carbide, lead, sand and clay were dumped over the core reactor by helicopter. The fire eventually extinguished itself when the core melted, flowed into the lower part of the building and then solidified, sealing off the entry. About 71% of the radioactive fuel in the core (about 135 metric tons) remained uncovered for about 10 days until cooling and solidification took place. 135,000 people were evacuated from a 30-km radius exclusion zone. Clean up involved some 800,000 people. The radioactivity released was estimated to be about two hundred times that of the combined releases in the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Millions of people were exposed to the radiation in varying doses.
Health Consequences of the Chernobyl Disaster Compulsory health monitoring was provided to those who lived and worked in the heavily contaminated area. Health monitoring was also provided for more than 4.5 million people who were exposed to lower levels of radiation. Still, the available information on the direct health effects of the catastrophe are sketchy at best.
Twenty different radionuclides with half-lives varying from 8 days to 24,400 years were released into the atmosphere during the ten day period following the explosion. The contaminants include idiodine-131, cesium-134 and -137 and several plutonium isotopes. There were 444 workers at the site at the time of the accident. Of the 300 admitted to hospitals, 134 were diagnosed with acute radiation syndrome (ARS). Only 45 of these individuals have died to date, though the survivors still suffer with emotional and sleep disturbances and 30% have gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and immuno-function disorders. In Belarus alone 2.2 million people including 600,000 juveniles and children have been exposed to the prolonged impact of long-lived radionuclides. A total of 415 settlements have been evacuated, and the 130,000 residents resettled, making monitoring of them difficult.
The actual death toll due to this catastrophe is hard to determine. Greenpeace Ukraine estimates the total number to be about 32,000. Some estimates are higher, many are much lower. The rate of thyroid cancer in children up to the age of 15 has increased 200 fold in Gomel Oblast, Belarus since the accident. At least 90% of these are curable, but the number of cases is expected to increase, especially in children like Blasa who were younger than three at the time of the release. Thyroid cancer is due to inhalation of radioactive iodine or ingestion from drinking milk from cows that have eaten grass that is contaminated with radioactive particles. Iodine-134 is absorbed and concentrated (biointensified) in the milk. When humans drink the milk, the iodine-134 becomes incorporated almost exclusively in the thyroid gland. Many diets in the fall-out affected area of the former Soviet Union are typically deficient in iodine. Individuals who had low levels of iodine in their diet incorporated large quantities of the radioactive iodine into their system as their bodies attempted to compensate for the deficiency. At the moment few republics are reporting a rise in leukemia, a condition which would have been expected to increase. It is possible that the actual rise in incidents of the disease is masked by the mass resettlement into other unaffected areas after the accident. This may have resulted in skewed results since any increase in the rate of leukemia would be averaged over a larger population of individuals, many of whom had not been exposed.
The incidences of birth defects have increased in heavily contaminated areas. A condition known as "minisatellite mutation" in the Mogilev district of Belarus is "unusually high."
Most genetic mutations resulting from exposure to radiation are recessive and are not likely to be expressed until the individuals affected have grandchildren. The mutation will be fully manifested when two people carrying the same mutant gene marry and produce a child who receives the identical mutant gene from each parent (a one-in-four chance for each child they produce). Radiation effects are dependent upon both level and time of exposure and some individuals continue to be exposed. As a result many effects of radiation on an exposed individual may not be manifested for years to come. Madame Curie reportedly worked with radioactive materials for years before she finally succumbed to its effects. Cancer may take many years to develop after exposure to a carcinogen.
The secondary effects of the accident are readily obvious. Millions of people are suffering from mental and emotional illness and these conditions lead to disturbances of the physical kind, including digestive disorders, high blood pressure, heart conditions and more generally sleeplessness and alcoholism. General living conditions in the three affected republics are substandard. The economy is deteriorating and health services are experiencing total collapse. People are malnourished, and diseases like tuberculosis are on the increase. Some of this economic depression is due to the accident, and some is a result of the general economic situation in the former Soviet Union as a whole. The immediate problems are more important to them than diseases that will not have a major impact until some time in the future. As a result, leukemia, thyroid cancer and birth defects must take a back seat to more pressing issues, such as basic survival. Extensive studies will be necessary in order to determine the total impact of the Chernobyl disaster and approach a solution intelligently.
Chernobyl Workers' Children Show More Mutations, Study Finds
London, May 9 (Bloomberg) -- Children born to workers involved in the cleanup of Chernobyl have seven times the number of genetic mutations of siblings born before a nuclear reactor at the Ukrainian plant exploded in 1986, a study shows.
Exposure to radiation of people near Chernobyl after the accident is considered to have been low, the study said.
Even the atomic bombs dropped on Japan during World War II failed to cause any ``significant genetic defects'' later in the population.
Yet the ``liquidators'' of Chernobyl, as the cleanup workers are known, ``are among those who received the highest doses'' of radiation, and children since born to them have an ``unexpectedly high'' rate of changes in their DNA, according to the study published by the Royal Society in London.
The scientists said that even lower doses of radiation, such as those received in medical tests, industrial accidents or environmental contamination, can double the mutation rate, a finding that ``needs serious attention.''
DNA-testing techniques developed in the mid-1990s were used by the three teams of scientists who tested the families, in which one child was conceived before the Chernobyl accident and one later. Some of the families now live in Israel.
In one family, both parents were exposed to radiation in the cleanup of the plant. In the others, only the fathers were involved.
The findings, reported earlier in the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper, show changes to the sperm of men who worked on the cleanup, leading to mutation of the DNA in offspring born later. None of the children shows any physical deformity, while the long- term effects of the DNA changes are not known, the scientists said.
16 Years Later Chernobyl's Legacy of Radioactive Poisoning Passed On by Elizabeth Piper
KIEV - Ukrainian children born with genetic mutations or harmed by radioactive food form a new generation of Chernobyl victims who could pass the accident's tragic legacy on to the next, specialists warned yesterday. On the eve of Chernobyl's 16th anniversary, specialists who have worked in the region since a reactor exploded and spewed clouds of radioactivity over much of Europe said the fight against radiation-related illness was far from won.
''Today, 16 years after the accident, there remain some huge problems in several regions ... especially in terms of children's health and in terms of food,'' Olga Bobylova, deputy secretary of Ukraine's health service, told a news conference.
An aerial view of Ukraine's Chernobyl nucler power plant, the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster, is seen in this May 1986 file photo made a few days after the April 26 deadly explosion. In front of the chimney is the destroyed 4th reactor. Ukraine commemorates victims of Chernobyl catastrophe Thursday, April 25, 2002, on the eve of the 16th anniversary of the tragedy when a nuclear explosion, many times bigger that Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined, sent a radioactive cloud over parts of then-Soviet Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and parts of Western Europe. The plant was closed for good in 2000, but many environmental problems persist. (AP Photo/STR/FILE)
''[In areas surrounding Chernobyl] meat and milk in the private sector have high levels of radioactivity. ... There are also problems with the mushrooms and berries in the forests. ... Such food can have a profound effect on health.''
Thousands of impoverished Ukrainians live in areas affected by radioactive contamination from the plant, which exploded on April 26, 1986 in the world's worst civil nuclear disaster.
To boost their meager daily meals they gather berries and mushrooms from fields and forests still contaminated by radioactive debris. Many are unaware or reluctant to think that the food remains a health risk so long after the accident.
''The state tries to give children good, clean food, but it cannot because of a lack of funds,'' Bobylova said.
''We need this in the future.''
The specialists urged Ukraine and the rest of the world not to allow Chernobyl to become a forgotten crisis - a term used first by the United Nations which hinted that funds could run out as interest in the disaster waned.
Evgeniya Stepanova, a specialist in radiation-linked illnesses, said children were becoming sufferers years after the explosion, which killed few people at the time.
The true casualty toll in the years since is a matter of intense controversy. Chernobyl has been blamed for thousands of deaths in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia and for a huge increase in thyroid cancer.
''[Research] has shown genetic mutations in sufferers of Chernobyl, both adults and children. ... Those children and adults are more likely to get cancer and pass on mutations to their children.''
Radiation is known to cause genetic mutation, and the rate of certain cancers goes up in areas exposed to nuclear fallout, scientists say.
Stepanova said it was time to turn the world's attention to those who had no choice but to suffer the consequences and those who could unwittingly become the next victims of Chernobyl.
''We have not paid enough attention to those people who are suffering,'' she said, almost shouting.
''Among all the problems caused by Chernobyl, the genetic [mutation] problem should come first. ... It is a huge problem.''
Copyright 2002 Reuters Ltd
Chernobyl's Grim Genetic Legacy
International research scholar Alec Jeffeys believes that radiation leaked from Chernobyl more than a decade ago may only now be manifesting its diastrous legacy.
April 25, 1996 Sir Alec Jeffreys shared some bad news on the 10th anniversary of the worst nuclear power accident in history. The British geneticist and his Russian colleague, Yuri Dubrova, reported that mutation rates are unusually high among the children of families exposed to radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl reactor meltdown in Ukraine.
Jeffreys is one of the Institute's 22 international research scholars in the United Kingdom. The collaborative study was the subject of a cover story in Nature on April 25, 1996, the week that marked the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.
During the past decade, physicians and government officials in eastern Europe have grappled with the deaths of thousands from radiation-related illness such as thyroid cancer. They haven't known how the fallout might affect future generations.
Attracting worldwide attention, Jeffreys' results suggest the impact may last longer than expected. The study provides the first direct evidence that children can inherit radiation-triggered germline mutations from their parents. The findings are particularly troublesome because the study population lived in Belarus, more than 100 miles north of the doomed reactor. The families in the study probably received far lower radiation exposure than the 116,000 people evacuated from within 15 miles of the nuclear power plant.
"Given the relatively low dose rates in the Belarus population sample we collected, we did not expect to see any increase in mutations," Jeffreys said. The results indicate that the genetic consequences of such incidents are greater and longer-lived than previous studies suggested. Jeffreys' team started its Chernobyl study in 1994 in collaboration with Russian researchers, including lead author Yuri Dubrova of the Institute of General Genetics in Moscow. "The idea was to collect blood from contemporary births to get an overall view of parental radiation during the previous eight years," Jeffreys said.
Colleagues at the Institute of Radiation Medicine in Mogilev, Belarus, collected blood samples from local maternity hospitals. The rural Mogilev district was hit fairly hard by Chernobyl's radioactive fallout, including iodine-131. In the years following the accident, most Mogilev residents have eaten food grown in soil contaminated with radioactive cesium-137. Their exposure to radiation has been low but chronic.
The samples were brought to Jeffreys' lab in England, where they were analyzed to produce DNA fingerprints that establish identity and paternity. Studying each family's blood samples, the researchers used five different systems for monitoring mutations. They asked two questions: Does the mutation rate in Mogilev exceed natural levels? And, if so, are these mutations due to radiation exposure?
To answer those questions, the researchers compared the Mogilev blood samples with those of 105 non-irradiated families from England (the control group). They found that the frequency of mutation was twice as high in families from Mogilev than in families from England. Among the Mogilev families, children with the higher mutation rates lived in areas where the soil is most contaminated with radioactive cesium-137, another indication that radiation exposure might be causing the additional mutations.
For now, the most Jeffreys and his colleagues can conclude is that the mutations seen in the human study will likely be passed along to future generations because they are germline in origin. Larger questions loom. Both scientists and the public wonder whether the high mutation rates will translate into greater health problems for future generations. That's a question the researchers cannot answer at this time.
One problem is that Jeffreys and colleagues cannot draw upon past studies with similar findings. There aren't any. Despite decades of research, there is no evidence for increased mutation rates in the genome of residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki since the atomic bombs were dropped on those cities in 1945. It is very difficult even to compare the Japanese and Chernobyl results because the radiation exposure of the two populations is so different. What's more, animal studies are lacking. Few researchers have conducted large-scale studies exposing mice to chronic, low radiation like the kind caused by Chernobyl, Jeffreys said.
"Mutations [in the genes] that we studied are most unlikely to have any health implications for these children or their descendants," Jeffreys said. "It is impossible to say whether other classes of mutations of greater potential biological significance also will show a corresponding increase in mutation frequency." However, Jeffreys said it is very unlikely the mutation rate is a statistical fluke. He and Dubrova continue their investigations.
Chernobyl wheat has higher than expected mutations
UK: October 5, 2000
LONDON - Fourteen years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, wheat grown in Ukraine near the nuclear power station is six times more likely to show mutations than crops grown in uncontaminated soil, scientists said yesterday.
A report in Nature journal by Olga Kovalchuk of the Friedrich Miescher Institute at the Novartis Research Foundation in Switzerland, and colleagues, compared a wheat crop grown near Chernobyl with a genetically identical crop 30 km (19 miles) away.
After one generation the Chernobyl crop showed a rate of mutation six times higher than the crop grown in the clean soil, the report said.
The scientists said the mutation rate was not in keeping with the levels of radiation.
"We estimate that the wheat plants have been exposed to relatively low doses of chronic irradiation. Theoretically this low-level exposure should not cause such a large increase in the mutation rate," Kovalchuk and her colleagues said.
They concluded that the high mutation rate indictated that "chronic exposure to ionizing radiation has effects that are as yet unknown."
Further research was needed to analyse the genetic effects of chronic radiation exposure, the scientists added.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
None of that matters, since the Chernobyl accident would not take place for another two years. Things don't mutate and grow to disproportionate sizes in anticipation of a nuclear event.
Three abnormally large dandelion plants were found in September 1984, within five feet of each other, in an area that was untouched since the days of the accident. It is not known if this plant had ever produced flowers.
What do you think caused this?
I then grew the zinnias to maturity, harvested the seed and grew them the following year. Both generations appeared perfectly normal - maybe too normal. The only mutation I found was in one of the control plants. It was very pale green - almost white-leaved.
Zinnias are compositae and related to dandelions.
Somehow, I'm not impressed with giant dandelions and four-legged daddy long-legs.
Don't know if you checked out that biker chick's ride through the Chernobyl region...but she gave readings
from her dosimeter on the road, x feet off the road, and y feet from the road.
Anyway, the points being that the radiation is still quite high in the dirt, and any vegetation is not just exposed to
one dose, but continually exposed as the plant cells divide.
JMO, from my observations and from what I remember from a 1 credit physics module 20+ years ago.
She is from Kiev. This is quite informative and more than a little frightening.
LOL -- good catch.
Then there's this motorcycle tour and photo essay of Chernobyl.
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