Immigrants who left eastern Europe in the last 20 years to come to New York are finding that they can't leave it all behind. The New York Times reports today that an alarming number of these people are developing thyroid cancer as a possible result of radiation exposure from Chernobyl. In 1986, an accident at a nuclear power plant in Pripyat, Ukraine leaked a large cloud of radioactivity which was carried from all over Soviet Europe to as far as the eastern United States. The number of deaths that actually occurred at the time of the accident is small when compared with those caused by the far-reaching effects of the radiation that continues to spawn new cancers in those exposed. Sadly, the number of total deaths is unknown because of a large effort by the Soviet government to cover-up the incident at the time. But the do-gooders at Greenpeace estimate the number to range from 93,000 to 200,000. Nine thousand of these deaths even occurred in people who were simply working on cleaning up the mess.
Cancer of the thyroid gland is relatively rare, making up about 1% of all cancers in the U.S. But the Times reports that the disease has been on the climb nationally with a sharper rise in cases seen in New York. This
discrepancy is strongly felt to be due to New York's large eastern European contingent and their previous radiation exposure. Radiation is a known cause of several types of cancers, including leukemia, lung cancer, and
thyroid cancer. Fortunately, a group of NY docs has organized a conference to take place at the United Nations today to discuss this
epidemic and Chernobyl's never ending consequences.