Beyond Trauma pp 213-232 | Cite as

Health Problems in Areas Contaminated by the Chernobyl Disaster

Radiation, Traumatic Stress, or Chronic Stress?
  • Jan Van Den Bout
  • Johan M. Havenaar
  • Ludmilla I. Meijler-Iljina
Part of the The Plenum Series on Stress and Coping book series (SSSO)

Abstract

On April 26, 1986, one of the four blocks of the Ukrainian nuclear power plant at Chernobyl exploded as a result of human error. The fatal accident sequence was initiated by the decision of the plant’s management to shut down all safety mechanisms in the reactor in an overnight experiment to test the generator under extreme conditions. That night, at 01.24 hours, eyewitnesses outside Chernobyl Unit 4 observed two explosions, one after the other. Burning debris and sparks shot into the air above the reactor, some of which fell on the roof of the machine room and started a fire. The explosions left a gaping hole in the roof, exposing the reactor core to the outside air (Medvedev, 1990; Mould, 1988). Firefighters from the nearby town of Pripyat made heroic efforts to control the fires. Even after rescue workers had entered the Unit 4 building, the operating crew reacted with disbelief to the reported devastation of the reactor’s core. Disbelief and outright denial also characterized the first official response. The authorities had only recently proclaimed that the Chernobyl reactor was so safe that one could have built it on Red Square in Moscow. Only when alarming background readings of radioactivity in the Scandinavian countries made it apparent that a large-scale nuclear accident was occurring somewhere in the Soviet Union did the first public announcements appear in the Soviet press. The state press agency, TASS, issued a four-line statement that an accident had occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and that every measure had been taken to limit the damage.

Keywords

Thyroid Cancer Traumatic Stress Chernobyl Accident Radioactive Contamination Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. American Psychiatric Association. (1987). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (3rd ed., rev.). Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  2. Baum, A. (1987). Toxins, technology and natural disasters. In G. R. Vandenbos and K. B. Bryant (Eds.), Cataclysms, crises and catastrophes: Psychology in action (pp. 5–53 ). Washington: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  3. Baum, A., Fleming, I., and Davidson, L. M. (1983). Natural disasters and technological catastrophe. Environment and Behavior, 15, 333–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baum, A., Gatchel, J. R., and Schaeffer, A. (1983). Emotional, behavioural and physiological effects of chronic stress at the Three Mile Island. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 51, 565–572.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bertazzi, P. (1989). Industrial disasters and epidemiology. Scandinavian Journal of Work Environmental Health, 15, 85–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bromet, J. E., and Schulberg, C. H. (1986). The Three Mile Island disaster: A search for high risk groups. In J. H. Shore (Ed.), Disaster stress studies: New Methods and findings (pp. 119 ). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press.Google Scholar
  7. Cohen, S., and Williamson, G. M. (1991). Stress and infectious disease in humans. Psychological Bulletin, 109, 5–24.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Darby, S. C., and Reeves, G. K. (1991). Lessons of Chernobyl: Psychological problems seem to be a major health effect at present. British Medical Journal, 303, 1347–1348.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Davidson, L. M., Fleming, I., and Baum, A. (1986). Post traumatic stress as a function of chronic stress and toxic exposure. In C. Figley (Ed.), Trauma and its wake (Vol. 2, pp. 57 - T7 ). New York: Brunner/Mazel.Google Scholar
  10. Davidson, M. L., and Baum, A. (1986). Chronic stress and post-traumatic stress disorders. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 54, 303–308.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Giel, R. (1991). The psychosocial aftermath of two major disasters in the Soviet Union. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 4, 381–392.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gittus, J. H., et al. (1989). The Chernobyl accident and its consequences. London: UKAEA. Ivanov, E., and Tsyb, A. (1993). Cited in Nucleonics Week, 34(16),p. 1.Google Scholar
  13. Kazakov, V. S., Demidchik, E. P., and Astakhova, L. N. (1992). Childhood thyroid cancer after Chernobyl. Nature, 359, 21.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kleber, R. J., and Brom, D. (1992). Coping with trauma: Theory, prevention and treatment. Amsterdam: Swets and Zeitlinger.Google Scholar
  15. Lifton, R. J. (1971). Death in life: Survivors of Hiroshima. New York: Random House. McCally, M. (1990). What the fight is all about. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 46, 10–14.Google Scholar
  16. Medvedev, Zh. (1990). The legacy of Chernobyl. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  17. Mould, R. F. (1988). Chernobyl: The real story. New York: Pergamon Press.Google Scholar
  18. Park, C. C. (1989). Chernobyl: The long shadow. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  19. Pennebaker, J. W. (1982). The psychology of physical symptoms. New York: Springer-Verlag. Shigematsu, I. (Ed.). (1991). The International Chernobyl Project-Technical report. Vienna: International Atomic Energy Agency.Google Scholar
  20. Stiehm, E. R. (1992). The psychological fallout from Chernobyl. American Journal of Disease in Childhood, 146, 761–762.Google Scholar
  21. Young, M. J., and Launer, M. K. (1991). Redefining Glasnost in the Soviet media: The recontextualization of Chernobyl. Journal of Communication, 41, 102–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jan Van Den Bout
    • 1
  • Johan M. Havenaar
    • 2
  • Ludmilla I. Meijler-Iljina
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Clinical and Health PsychologyUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations