Note to Correspondents

Note No 138
25 April 2001


VIENNA, 25 April (UN Information Service) -- The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) is presently holding its fiftieth session in Vienna. On 26 April, the 15th anniversary of the nuclear accident at Chernobyl, the Committee will discuss its future assessments of the level of adverse health effects from the accident.

Immediately after the Chernobyl disaster, the Committee started evaluating the consequences of the accident. Already in the UNSCEAR 1988 Report, it gave its first assessments of doses and early effects. In September 2000 the Committee published the UNSCEAR 2000 Report and submitted it to the General Assembly. According to the Committee's scientific assessments in that Report, there were 134 reported persons suffering acute radiation sickness, 28 of whom died within four months of the accident. About 1,800 cases of childhood thyroid cancer (mostly curable) occurred in Belarus, Ukraine and the Russian Federation in those who were children at the time of the accident. Apart from this increase, there is currently no evidence of a major public health impact attributable to radiation exposure from the accident. Although those most highly exposed individuals are at an increased risk of long-term radiation-associated effects, the great majority of the population are not likely to experience serious health consequences from radiation from the Chernobyl accident.

The health effects from the Chernobyl accident remain a priority for the future work of the Committee. UNSCEAR intends to continue its studies of the affected republics and other countries and prepare future scientific reports concerning the radiological health consequences of the Chernobyl accident. The Committee expects that new data will be available from Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine. The Committee has established close collaboration with scientists of the three affected republics.


UNSCEAR was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1955. It is composed of scientists from 21 nations and has previously published 13 major reports on the levels and health effects of radiation. UNSCEAR's mandate in the United Nations system is to assess and report levels and effects of exposure to ionizing radiation. Governments and organizations throughout the world rely on the Committee's estimates as the scientific basis for evaluating radiation risk, establishing radiation protection and safety standards, and regulating radiation sources.

The UNSCEAR 2000 Report has ten annexes that are extensive scientific reviews and assessments on: exposures from natural radiation sources; exposures to the public from man-made sources of radiation; medical radiation exposures; occupational radiation exposures; DNA repair and mutagenesis; biological effects at low radiation doses; combined effects of radiation and other agents; review of radiation-associated cancer risks; and exposures and effects of the Chernobyl accident.

For more information contact:

Dr. Norman Gentner
Secretary of UNSCEAR
Vienna International Centre
P.O.B. 500, A-1400 Vienna, Austria
Telephone: 0043 1 26060 4330, Fax: 0043 1 26060 5902