Commentary: Lessons Learned from the Study of Immigrants to Israel from Areas of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine Contaminated by the Chernobyl Accident Academic Article uri icon


  • During the past 6 years, immigration to Israel of 700,000 persons from the former Soviet Union (FSU) included about 140,000 from radiocontaminated regions of Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia near Chernobyl. In Beer Sheva, a major center for immigrant absorption in Israel, a primary objective was to evaluate their health status and to refer them for care. 137Cs levels in 1228 men, women, and children were measured with a portable whole-body counter. Whole-body counts showed clear correlation with the degree of 137Cs ground contamination in previous regions of residence. The population could thus be sub-divided according to degree of exposure, based on previous regions of residence. The thyroid status of 300 local immigrant children was evaluated because of the increased risk of childhood thyroid cancer in the regions from which they came. This group was subdivided into comparative groups of children who came from less and more contaminated areas according to the International Atomic Energy Agency soil 137Cs contamination maps. Enlarged thyroids were found in about 40% of both groups. One 12-year-old girl from Gomel had a malignant papillary carcinoma. Thyroid-stimulating hormone levels, though within normal limits, were significantly greater (p < 0.02) for girls from high exposure regions. Liquidators showed significant increases in serum clastogenic factor and in the number of circulating glycophorin A-mutated red cells. In studies of over 700 people from both radiocontaminated and unaffected regions of the FSU, evidence for posttraumatic stress disorder was found more frequently in persons coming from the more contaminated areas.

publication date

  • January 1, 1998