One of the most significant problems ever to affect Europe’s environmental condition was the explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in the Ukraine. The blast of radioactivity spread across a huge swath of Eastern Europe, and even today its lingering effects are causing problems for residents.
The Chernobyl radiation has proven especially effective in causing thyroid disorders. Joe Nocera, writing in the New York Times, describes one woman affected with an enlarged thyroid.
Maria Gawronska, born in northern Poland, was only a few years old when Chernobyl exploded in 1986. At first, people in her hometown were told that the explosion was not likely to cause any significant damage. Later, they were given iodine tablets to counteract the effects of radioactivity on the thyroid and told to stay in their houses; Gawronska’s family did so for two weeks.
Gradually people in Poland began to show increased occurrences of various cancers and thyroid disorders. Eventually, thyroid problems became so prevalent that Gawronska and her father were the only ones in her family with healthy glands.
Soon, however, her neck started to grow. When she visited a specialist in New York, he said he wasn’t sure if he could fix it without seriously damaging her vocal cords. So she decided to return to Poland to get medical assistance.
The doctor in her hometown of Olsztyn, she says, was unperturbed: hers was a routine, and successful, operation. But the most telling thing about Maria’s narrative, and what best reveals the lasting problems caused by Chernobyl, is what happened when her friends found out why she was in Poland: “As soon as they heard why she had returned, she said, ‘They all laughed and pointed to their own scars.’” (Nocera)
Nocera, Joe. “Chernobyl’s Lingering Scars.” New York Times 11 July 2011: A23. The New York Times: The Opinion Pages. Web, print. 25 January 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/12/opinion/12nocera.html>.
Allen, Jesse. “Chernobyl, Ukraine.” Photograph. NASA Visible Earth. NASA, 25 Jan. 2012. Web. http://eoimages.gsfc.nasa.gov/images/imagerecords/39000/39679/chernobyl_ali_2009118.jpg.
What power plant exploded in 1986, spreading radiation across much of Europe?
Briefly summarize the effects of this event.
Name an important disease the event caused.