Officially 47 people — members of the emergency rescue crews — died in Chernobyl from exposure to lethal doses of radiation. This is serious enough. “But overall the amount of radiation that escaped was simply too low to claim large numbers of victims,” explains Kellerer.
The iodine 131 that escaped from the reactor did end up causing severe health problems in Ukraine. It settled on meadows in the form of a fine dust, passing through the food chain, from grass to cows to milk, and eventually accumulating in the thyroid glands of children.
A lethal dose of radiation, which causes fever, changes in the composition of the blood, irreparable damage to the body and death within two weeks, is 6 Gray.
From a study of all residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who had survived the atomic explosion within a 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) radius. Investigators questioned the residents to obtain their precise locations when the bomb exploded, and used this information to calculate a personal radiation dose for each resident. Data was collected for 86,572 people. More than 700 people eventually died as a result of radiation received from the atomic attack:
87 died of leukemia;
440 died of tumors;
and 250 died of radiation-induced heart attacks.
In addition, 30 fetuses developed mental disabilities after they were born.
Such statistics have attracted little notice so far. The numbers cited in schoolbooks are much higher. According to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, 105,000people died of the “long-term consequences of radiation.”
Up to 4000 people from Chernobyl might die prematurely.
Because of the difficulty of attributing specific cancers to radiation over decades, the precise number of deaths is “unlikely ever to be known”, the study says.
Michael Repacholi, radiation manager for the UN’s World Health Organization, notes that 25% of those affected by Chernobyl would ultimately die from spontaneous cancers anyway, and only 3% would die from cancer as a result of exposure. “Most people will be surprised that there are so few deaths,” he told.