Due to the success of the HBO-produced Chernobyl series, the subject gained momentum in the media, and CBR, as the main source of information for journalists when it comes to Radiology, was contacted by the SAÚDE portal to talk about it.
College communication director Dr. Hilton Muniz Leão Filho and physics Simone Kodlulovich, both of the CBR Radiological Protection Commission, interviewed the vehicle.
Chernobyl and the risks of radiation to health and the planet
HBO Channel Miniseries Recalls History of the Largest Nuclear Tragedy of the 20th Century and Reopens Discussion on the Dangers of Radiation to Humankind
On May 1, 1986, Labor Day holiday, Pripyat, in northern Ukraine, would win its first amusement park. Founded in February 1970, the city housed the employees of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, located just 2 miles away. Pripyat's children, however, never had a chance to ride a carousel or play a big wheel. Five days earlier, at dawn on April 26, what was supposed to be a routine test on the plant's No. 4 reactor turned into a nuclear accident. The worst in history.
On the afternoon of April 27, all 48,000 Pripyat residents had only 40 minutes to collect their belongings and leave their homes. They never came back. In 2000, the Chernobyl plant was closed and two years later released for visitation. Every year, an average of 60,000 tourists visit what is left of Pripyat. From dormitory town to ghost town.
Following the premiere of Chernobyl, HBO miniseries created by Craig Mazin from the book Midnight in Chernobyl by journalist Adam Higginbotham, owners of tourism agencies operating in the region estimate a 40% increase in the number of visitors to the so-called “Exclusion Zone”, name given to the 2,600 square kilometers area isolated after the tragedy. Prices range from $ 81, one day tour, to 110, with lunch, per person. In general, agencies provide a dosimeter - a device that measures radiation - for each client.
But is it safe to visit the place where a nuclear accident occurred? Does ionizing radiation, the kind that is harmful to living organisms, cause no harm to visitors? Juliano Cerci, president of the Brazilian Society of Nuclear Medicine (SBMN), ensures that, as long as the guidelines of the guides are respected, the tour is not harmful to health.
“Chernobyl in Ukraine and Fukushima in Japan are monitored with a very high degree of accuracy. In the case of Chernobyl, the areas where tourists can get around are absolutely safe, ”says the nuclear doctor and radiologist. “In authorized areas, radiation levels are within limits. Therefore, there is no risk to visitors, ”agrees radiologist Hilton Muniz Leão Filho, of the Radiological Protection Commission of the Brazilian College of Radiology and Diagnostic Imaging (CRB).
The rules for visiting Chernobyl are clear: do not touch or lean against anything on the streets (poles and walls, for example), do not pick up objects from the ground (the level of contamination tends to be high), do not enter buildings abandoned (the risk of collapse is high), not interacting with animals (due to the risk of contamination as well) and not eating or drinking outdoors. Failure to comply with any of these recommendations, in addition to health risks, may result in a fine or detention.
Technical failure or human error?
To this day, it is not clear what caused the Chernobyl tragedy. Some say it was reactor failure. Some argue that it was human error. A third group says it was a little of both. There is no consensus, either, about the total death toll. The numbers range from 31, according to official Soviet government data, to 200,000, according to Greenpeace estimates.
What is known is that, broadly speaking, the effects of radiation on the human body can be divided into acute and chronic.
The trebles are immediate, appear in cases of direct or excessive exposure and are related to skin lesions (burns), digestive tract or respiratory system. “They are due to inhalation, ingestion of water, meat or vegetables exposed to radiation or direct contact with the skin,” explains Muniz. "The closer to the venue, the faster and more devastating the effects," he adds.
Chronic damage, on the other hand, is late, may manifest within ten years after indirect exposure and is related to the appearance of tumors (thyroid cancer is the most common), genetic mutations and loss of fertility.
The severity of the injuries, doctors explain, depends on a number of factors: radiation dose, exposure time, and body part affected. "Some areas are more susceptible, such as the lens of the eye, the thyroid, the gonad region, and the mammary glands," exemplifies physicist Simone Kodlulovich of the National Nuclear Energy Commission (CNEN).
The radioactive cloud that the wind helped to spread - the first country to detect worrying increases in radiation levels was Sweden, 1,100 kilometers away from Ukraine! - not only caused harm to humans. The environment has also been hit hard. Within a radius of 400 kilometers, radiation contaminated rivers, lakes and forests and affected animal reproduction. Within a radius of 800 kilometers, herds of cattle showed a drop in milk production.
It's not all radiation, ponders Cerci, that is bad for your health. In small doses, radiation exposure poses no risk. On the contrary: employed in imaging and therapeutic devices, it helps diagnose diseases (such as mammography) and treat tumors (see radiotherapy).
“We have to be careful with radiation, yes, but precaution must not give way to dread. There are cases of patients who refuse to perform certain procedures for fear of radiation. It is important to clarify that radiotherapy treats people with cancer through radiation and in most cases achieves excellent results. Any generalization can be dangerous, ”warns the SBMN president.
Photo: Press Release / HBO / HEALTH is Vital)Tags: cbr, chernobyl, HBO, Radiological protection, radioactivity, radiology, radiologist, series