For 50 years dangerous concentrations of radionuclides have been accumulating in earth, air and water from weapons testing and reactor incidents. Yet serious studies of the effects of radiation on health have been obscured – not least by the World Health Organisation.
In June 2007 Gregory Hartl, World Health Organisation (WHO) spokesman for Sustainable Development and Healthy Environments, claimed that the proceedings of the international conference held in Geneva in 1995 on the health consequences of the Chernobyl disaster had been duly published (1). This was not so. And the proceedings of the Kiev conference in 2001 have never been published either. Challenged by journalists a few months later, the WHO repeated the claim, providing references to a collection of abstracts for the Kiev conference and just 12 articles (out of hundreds) submitted to the Geneva conference.
Since 26 April 2007 (the 21st anniversary of Chernobyl), a large placard has informed WHO employees each day that one million children in the area around Chernobyl are irradiated and ill. IndependentWHO, the group organising the action, accuses the WHO of a cover-up of the health consequences of the catastrophe, and of failing to assist populations in danger.
The WHO, they insist, must end the agreement made in 1959 which binds it to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) (2) and prevents it from initiating a programme or activity in the area of nuclear power without consulting the IAEA “with a view to adjusting the matter by mutual agreement” (Article 1, Point 2).
Independence from the IAEA would permit the WHO to conduct a serious, scientific evaluation of the disaster and provide appropriate health care to contaminated people. A resolution to this effect is in preparation for the World Health Assembly in May 2008 (3) and an Appeal by Health Professionals has been launched (4).