In that way, the factory management kept health problems under wraps. They certified in a report to Kiev, which the factory’s chief engineer Maria Nogina signed, that the factory staff had no illnesses in connection with radioactivity. Nor, they wrote, had any workers suffered from any occupational health problems in the previous four years. Union records flatly contradict this statement; from 1987 to 1989, union representatives grew anxious about the ‘worrisome’ increase of illness at the factory. In regional farms, doctors reported a peculiar ‘guttural swelling’ among shepherds. Thirty years later, the women sorters and Nogina fingered their throats and described to me problems with thyroid disease, adult-onset diabetes and cancer. They mentioned other symptoms that sounded strange – aching joints and ‘legs that don’t go’, migraines, fainting spells and painfully twinging nerves. They attributed these unspecific health problems to Chernobyl. I was at a loss with what to do with these associations. Maybe, as critics would charge in the debates over Chernobyl health effects, the wool workers attributed normal symptoms of ageing to radiation. On the other hand, the sorters knew more about radiation than the average person. They grasped that some radioactive isotopes, such as ruthenium-106, settle in bone marrow, whereas others, like caesium-137, target muscle tissues, and radioactive iodine-131 gathers in the thyroid. They visualised the isotopes in their bones, joints and crumbling teeth.These women with no more than high-school education described to me how radioactive wastewater draining from the plant’s giant washing machines poured into a pond, and from there it was recycled into the municipal water-treatment facility to either return to the factory or float down the soft, brown currents of the Desna River. I corroborated this account of contaminated wastewater in the records. No manager I talked to remembered that detail.
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Yeah, the Gooferment is your “friend”!
When I read this I thought of Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Christie Wittman’s appeared twice in New York City after the September 11 attacks to inform New Yorkers that the toxins released by the attacks posed no threat to their health! (#26 “Video: Health Effects of 9/11 Dust”. Google Video. Archived from the original on May 19, 2011.)
Special circle of Hell for politicians and bureaucrats.
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