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Chernobyl Victims Could End Up With Leukemia, Scientists Say

March 20, 1987

LIVERMORE, Calif. (AP) _ Thousands of victims in the Chernobyl nuclear accident were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation that could first manifest itself in the form of leukemia within four years, scientists say.

Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory on Thursday announced preliminary results of blood tests from 16 survivors of the worst nuclear power plant disaster in history.

The tests showed a link between the amount of radiation exposure and the number of mutated cells in their blood system, scientists said.

Decades of continued monitoring of these victims and others could provide critical information in determining the risk of cancer in relation to radiation exposure and help cancer victims seek early medical attention, said Dr. Ronald Jensen of Lawrence Livermore’s biomedical sciences division.

The April 26 accident in the Ukraine, killed 31 people within the first seven months.

An explosion inside reactor No. 4 of the Chernobyl plant spewed radioactive cesium-134, iodine-131 and strontium over the Ukranian countryside, northwest across Scandinavia and eventually around the world.

Jensen said the team used a blood analysis designed to determine the number of toxic chemicals that individuals have been exposed to by measuring the effects of that exposure on the blood.

The normal number of variant cells found in the blood system is 10 per 1 million undamaged cells, but Jensen said the Chernobyl victims showed from 100 to 550 per 1 million regular cells.

″The breakthrough is that we’re measuring radiation exposure in vivo,″ he said, adding that previous Lawrence Livermore studies using the glycophorin ″A″ somatic cell mutation assay technique examined survivors of the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima more than 40 years ago.

Jensen said the blood samples were acquired from the Soviets by Dr. Robert Gale of the University of California at Los Angeles, who helped the Soviets perform bone marrow transplants after the Chernobyl explosion.

Lawrence Livermore Laboratory is operated by the University of California for the U.S. Energy Department.

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