05/30/2013 - 16:17

Chernobyl’s survivors: Paralyzed by fatalism or overlooked by science?

Adriana Petryna

Adriana Petryna is Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Life Exposed: Biological Citizens after Chernobyl (Princeton...

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The author describes the experiences of Ukrainian clean-up workers, resettled families, and parents of exposed children in the decade after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. The period was marked by a confused state response, lethal radiation doses to clean-up workers, and fragmented research efforts. The unraveling of the Soviet system in 1989 contributed to an atmosphere of chaos and left a legacy in Ukraine of incomplete accounting of the full public health and sociological consequences of the disaster. Being accountable to those people affected, the author writes, is a key challenge of our time, and the present and future consequences of Chernobyl’s health risks are not closed matters. Understanding the scope of the impact will hinge on what kinds of studies, technologies, and funds we are willing to apply, and over what time frame.