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Report: Chernobyl impact not as dire as expected

By wire services
Published September 6, 2005

VIENNA - Nearly two decades after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster spread radioactive fallout across much of Europe, a United Nations study has concluded the health effects have been far smaller than feared.

The researchers confirmed 56 deaths - nine children from thyroid cancer and 47 emergency workers from acute radiation poisoning or radiation-induced cancer. They projected that about 4,000 more people would eventually die of cancer, according to the report released Monday.

The 600-page report found no evidence of genetic or reproductive problems among survivors.

Virtually all the deaths are expected to come from among the 200,000 emergency workers or nearly 400,000 people who lived in the immediate area in Ukraine.

Ukraine said previously it had registered 4,400 deaths related to the accident, and early speculation following the radiation release predicted that tens of thousands would die.

But forum chairman Dr. Burton Bennett said Monday that previous death tolls were inflated, perhaps "to attract attention to the accident, to attract sympathy." He said poverty and "lifestyle diseases" posed a far greater threat to local communities.

However, anxiety caused by fear of death and illness from radiation poisoning is causing serious mental health problems, and such worries "show no signs of diminishing and may even be spreading," the International Atomic Energy Agency said.

The study is the most definitive look at the effect of the Chernobyl disaster. Its sponsors included the IAEA, the World Bank, the World Health Organization and the governments of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus.

Elsewhere ...

IRAQI INSURGENCY: Insurgents launched a daring daylight assault Monday against the Interior Ministry in Baghdad, killing two police. Two British soldiers died in a roadside bombing in the south. U.S. Marines said Monday that al-Qaida in Iraq launched multiple attacks the day before against U.S. and Iraqi targets in Hit, 85 miles west of Baghdad, killing eight civilians, an Iraqi soldier and three suicide bombers. Elsewhere, at least eight Iraqi civilians - including five children - were killed in fighting Monday in Tal Afar.

FRENCH PRESIDENT: President Jacques Chirac, hospitalized in Paris on Friday, is showing "very favorable" progress, Anne Robert, the head doctor of the army's health service, said Monday in the most detailed account yet. Chirac, 72, had suffered a small-sized hematoma, or bruise. She expects he will be released in a few days.

ARUBA CASE: Joran van der Sloot, a suspect in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, left Aruba on Monday to attend college in Holland, which is allowed under the terms of his release from jail.

[Last modified September 6, 2005, 03:15:21]

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