Professor: Clear that low-level contamination is probably more dangerous than single dose — Grasshoppers with deformed wings, gray eyes not red — Birds with abnormal sperm, strange large tumors (VIDEO)

Published: March 17th, 2012 at 10:55 am ET
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Title: Fukushima After the Meltdown
Source: PBS
Author: Miles O’Brien
Date: March 15, 2012

Revisiting Chernobyl: A Nuclear Disaster Site of Epic Proportions

The nuclear crisis in Japan has renewed interest in the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl in Ukraine. Science correspondent Miles O’Brien traveled to the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, shortly before its 25th anniversary.

MILES O’BRIEN: Milinevsky’s colleague, Tim Mousseau, believes animals are the key to settling the debate over the long-term health effects of Chernobyl. He and his team have spent more than a decade studying birds in the Chernobyl region and beyond.

TIMOTHY MOUSSEAU, University of South Carolina: But it’s clear that this low-level contamination is — is probably more dangerous in the long run than — than having a single hot spot.

MILES O’BRIEN: In contaminated areas, there are half as many species and one-third number of birds you would expect. Their brains are smaller. Forty percent of male barn swallows have abnormal sperm. One in five have strange colored plumage that makes it hard to attract mates.

There are unusual beak deformities and large tumors that scientists have never seen before. What, if anything, can we extrapolate between that bird population, that population of barn swallows, and humans?

TIMOTHY MOUSSEAU: I would argue that, you know, we’re all — we’re all animals, and birds are actually more similar to us than dissimilar to us. [...]

MILES O’BRIEN: Mousseau’s colleagues are also looking at Chernobyl’s grasshoppers. They frequently have asymmetrical wings, and fruit flies, which are easily impacted by radiation. Those found around Chernobyl have gray eyes, instead of red, and deformed wings.

Watch Revisiting Chernobyl: A Nuclear Disaster Site of Epic Proportions on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

Published: March 17th, 2012 at 10:55 am ET
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30 comments

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