• Sweden edition
 

Swedes still dying from Chernobyl radiation

Published: 04 May 2007 12:47 GMT+02:00
Updated: 04 May 2007 12:47 GMT+02:00

It is now more than two decades since the world's worst nuclear power accident, when a reactor exploded on April 26th 1986 at Chernobyl in the then-Soviet Ukraine. While large tracts of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus were severely contaminated, many parts of Sweden also felt the effects.

Engineers at Sweden's Forsmark power plant were the first to warn the world of the nuclear emergency after detectors showed soaring radiation levels. After inspecting the plant for leakage, Swedish officials announced that the particles came from Ukraine.

A radiation cloud had been carried by wind currents over the Baltic Sea and throughout Finland (which to this day has not revealed the results of its studies on this topic). It then swept across northern Sweden and Norway, dissipating in the Arctic part of the Norwegian Sea.

While the Chernobyl explosion recedes into history, for many people in parts of northern and central Sweden the effects are still being felt. Radiation from Chernobyl has been cited as a factor in more than 1,000 cancer deaths in Norrland between 1986 and 1999 - this in an area with a population of around one million. Experts warn that the worst is yet to come.

Swedish scientists at Linköping University have found that new types of malignancies were formed as an effect of the radiation cloud that hit areas around Gävle and Umeå the hardest in the mid-1980s.

According to Martin Tondel, the scientist leading the study, radiation in these areas is still regarded “much higher than normal levels”, while it drops drastically in Stockholm and southern areas.

“This is a follow up to our previous studies, which showed that out of 22,400 cases of cancer, 849 were directly related to radiation until 1996. We used different methodologies and studied different causes of cancer and still got similar results,” he tells The Local.

The majority of these cases were found in farming and herding societies in the north, since they eat mushrooms and berries growing in soil with high levels of radiation, fish from affected water, or deer and moose which have been grazing in the affected areas.

Several stretches of land in the countryside around Gävle were cordoned off in the eighties by the local authorities, and people who owned property in or around such areas incurred loses as they had to move out and could not sell their assets.

Officials have played down the alarming figures in the report. The Swedish Radiation Protection Authority (SSI) criticized the methodology behind the first study, although agrees that 'different' radiation levels in northern Sweden can be found in the soil and water.

Given that more than one third of Swedish citizens get cancer at some point in their life-time, the SSI argues that it is hard to statistically measure the direct relation between the radiation caused by Chernobyl and the cancer cases in the last two decades.

Chief researcher at SSI, Leif Moberg, said that the radiation levels in Sweden are too low to directly cause cancer. “It is not impossible, but it adds to other factors that cause cancer… smoking and radiation have a strong connection in developing cancer,” he says.

The SSI has raised the allowed level of radiation in meat, milk and other foods in the 1980s to “a recommended, ambitious level.”

“There is no such thing as safe levels, these are recommendations to control food contamination,” Moberg says.

SSI studies show that the long-term pattern shows a decrease in food contamination, but between 2003 and 2004 there was a slight increase in contamination found in moose meat.

Greenpeace specialist on energy and climate, Martina Krüger, said in recent years hunters around Gävle caught moose that had an exceptionally high amount of radiation. “It depends where they have been grazing,” she says.

She joins the SSI in predicting that the worst is yet to come.

“Worse effects will come in the future due to the amount of time it takes between being exposed to radiation and developing a cancer,” she says, criticizing the SSI for not educating the local people about dealing with different radiation levels.

“All in all, there’s no safe radiation, exposure to any radiation levels is dangerous” according to Gabor Tiroler, teacher of public health at Uppsala University and former World Health Organization specialist.

Tiroler says that the official point of view on this topic is usually to tell people that radiation in cattle meat, mushrooms, berries, fish and soil is not that dangerous, in an attempt to avoid panic.

For environmentalists, the only solution is a radical change of approach from the authorities. Greenpeace activists are calling for a high-profile public awareness campaign in the affected areas. Only this, they say, can help prevent radiation causing further unnecessary deaths and illnesses.

Rami Abdelrahman

Paul Rapacioli (paul.rapacioli@thelocal.com)

Today's headlines
Stockholm 'Russian sub' alert
Search for foreign vessel continues off Stockholm
Minehunter HMS Koster takes part in the search in the Stockholm archipelago on Sunday. Photo: Marko Säävälä/TT

Search for foreign vessel continues off Stockholm

Sweden's armed forces were continuing to search for the cause of apparent "foreign underwater activity" in the Stockholm Archipelago on Monday. But the military denied news agency reports that they had imposed an exclusion zone. READ  

Ebola crisis
Sweden hit by two Ebola false alarms in two days
The Uppsala University Hospital. Photo: TT

Sweden hit by two Ebola false alarms in two days

UPDATED: A patient has been cleared of any Ebola suspicions at the Uppsala University Hospital. It marks the second suspected case in Sweden in two days. READ  

Perspective: ‘Russian sub’ alert
Why a foreign vessel lurks in Swedish waters
The HMS Stockholm patrols Jungfrufjärden in the Stockholm archipelago on Monday morning. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Why a foreign vessel lurks in Swedish waters

With Sweden engaged in its biggest domestic military operation since the Cold War, The Local spoke to Johan Wiktorin, a fellow at the Swedish Royal Academy of War Sciences, to get insight into what’s going on in the Stockholm archipelago. READ  

My Swedish Career
US woman starts up Swedish toy store online
Leigh Neil and a llama hand puppet. Photo: Private

US woman starts up Swedish toy store online

For this week's My Swedish Career we meet Leigh Neil, who one day came to realize that there was a gap in the Swedish market for children's toys and decided to do something about it. READ  

Stockholm 'Russian sub' alert
No truth to Russia's submarine claim: Dutch
A CB90-class fast assault craft at Kullbäling, a small island in Stockholm's archipelago. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

No truth to Russia's submarine claim: Dutch

The Netherlands on Monday denied a Russian claim that a mystery vessel the Swedish military has been looking for could be Dutch. READ  

Lufthansa Strike
Over 20 Swedish flights hit by Lufthansa strike
Grounded Lufthansa planes. Photo: TT

Over 20 Swedish flights hit by Lufthansa strike

A strike by pilots at German airline Lufthansa will affect over 20 flights in and out of Sweden over the next two days. READ  

National
Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars
Photo: Shutterstock

Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars

A dentist in western Sweden is offering free dental care to his town's Roma begging population. READ  

Business & Money
Electrolux profit soars after cost-cutting efforts
Photo: TT

Electrolux profit soars after cost-cutting efforts

Swedish electrical appliance maker Electrolux reported its third-quarter net profit soared 42 percent to 933 million kronor ($130 million) thanks to a cost-cutting programme started at the end of last year. READ  

National
School photographer fired for homophobic slur
Photo credit: Shutterstock

School photographer fired for homophobic slur

A photographer at a high school in southern Sweden was sacked after he called one of the students a "fag" during a shoot. READ  

Ebola crisis
Patient in isolation after airport Ebola alert

Patient in isolation after airport Ebola alert

A male passenger who landed at Stockholm's Arlanda airport has been transferred to an isolation unit amid fears he may be suffering from the Ebola virus. But a specialist was keen to play down concerns. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
National
Sweden deploys troops over underwater threat
Gallery
People-watching: October 19th
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
Blog updates

19 October

Getting it (Blogweiser) »

"Follow Joel Sherwood on FB Few watch baseball in Sweden. This is excellent when your team loses..." READ »

 

17 October

Editor’s Blog, Oct 17th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Here’s the whole week of news in just 60 seconds. The most-read story was about a..." READ »

 
 
 
National
A Touch of Scandinavia: Reindeer in the kitchen
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden: October 17th - 24th
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Lifestyle
Sweden's The Bridge to become 'more Danish'
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
What's on in Sweden: October 10th - 17th
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Gallery
People-watching: October 8th
National
Five facts to know about Patrick Modiano
Society
My Swedish Career: A French fashionista in Sweden
Society
Swede's anti-bully Facebook tale goes viral
Society
Have you seen Sweden's viral subway cancer campaign?
National
Isis: Swedes linked to Turkish prisoner swap
National
Should Swedes be banned from buying sex abroad?
Gallery
Fredrik Reinfeldt's leaving presents
National
Five Swedish TV shows you shouldn't miss
Gallery
A tool belt, a casserole, and a book. Fredrik Reinfeldt's parliament gifts
TT
Lifestyle
Top five winter festivals in Sweden
TT
National
Sami reindeer herders win mine reprieve
Gallery
Property of the Week: Gamla Enskede
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Politics
Ten new minister faces you should know
Tech
First womb transplant baby in world born in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 5th
National
What's on in Sweden
National
Sweden rethinks Afghan translators' protection
Society
Interview with Geena Davis: 'I want to be in a Swedish movie'
Gallery
Stefan Löfven through the years
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

990
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN