IRSN, Institut de radioprotection et de sûreté nucléaire

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Enhancing Nuclear Safety


The effects on health of chronic contamination with a low dose of radionuclides

(juillet 2011)

RESEARCH allowing the evaluation of radionuclide-related risks and their impact on health

The ENVIRHOM-Santé experimental research programme or Understanding the effects on health of chronic contamination with a low dose of radionuclides

The brain: A new target organ to uranium

Is the xenobiotic detoxification system affected by chronic exposure to uranium ?

Chronic ingestion of caesium 137 in a post-accident situation

Chronic exposure to caesium 137: Experimental and epidemiological studies

Metabolomics: Application in radiotoxicology

The perspectives of the ENVIRHOM-Santé programme

Chronic exposure to caesium 137: Experimental and epidemiological studies

The EPICE epidemiological research programme

Going beyond these experimental results, epidemiological studies focusing on populations living in contaminated areas should investigate the hypotheses put forward. This is why a pilot clinical study focusing on children living on Russian soil contaminated by the fall-out of the Chernobyl accident is currently being planned by the IRSN. The primary aim of this research programme known as EPICE (evaluation of diseases induced by caesium 137 contamination) is to carry out a vast epidemiological study to establish a possible link between the chronic ingestion of caesium 137 and the onset of a non-cancerous condition.

The first phase involves implementing a pilot study on a group of 49 children living in contaminated areas close to the town of Bryansk in North-Western Russia (359 km to the north east of Chernobyl). An analysis of the results suggests that there does not seem to be a link between caesium 137 contamination and the presence of two non-cancerous diseases - cardiac arrhythmias and cataracts- contrary to what was suggested by certain author in Belarus (Bandazhevskaya et al 2004). Similarly, no excess caesium 137 activity was detected in the hearts, thyroids or stomachs of these children (Landon, 2008).

In order to confirm or deny the data recorded in this pilot study, cardiac arrhythmias have been the subject of a more extensive investigation since May 2009.  This study is scheduled to continue for 4 years. It involves listing the nature and frequency of cardiac arrhythmias in approximately 10,000 children living in contaminated areas and 10,000 children living in non-contaminated districts in the same region.  The diagnosis made by local practitioners, and validated in conjunction with French experts, is based on the results of ECGs and ultrasound scans carried out routinely in children incorporated in this study after obtaining the parents'  informed consent in writing. In addition, each child will undergo an anthroporadiametric examination to determine levels of caesium 137 in his/her body.  Finally, 24-hour ECG recordings and targeted blood tests performed on some study groups will complete the examinations. Putting all of these results in perspective will allow investigators to confirm whether there is any increase in cardiac disorders in children ingesting caesium 137 with their food on a daily basis, to accurately identify the nature of these disorders and to examine a possible cause-effect link between cardiovascular disorders and chronic contamination with small doses of caesium 137.

These studies will also help to inform the debate that has been continuing for several years on the non-cancerous effects triggered by exposure to low doses of ionising radiation.



references : 

Bandazhevskaya GS, Nesterenko VB, Babenko VI, Yerkovich TV, Bandazhevsky YI. Relationship between caesium (137Cs) load, cardiovascular symptoms, and source of food in 'Chernobyl' children -- preliminary observations after intake of oral apple pectin. Swiss Med Wkly. 134(49-50):725-9 (2004).

Landon G. Césium 137 : Pathologies non cancéreuses potentiellement consécutives à une contamination interne chronique par le césium 137 : cataractes et arythmies cardiaques. Thèse de Pharmacie, Université Paris V-René Déscartes (N°2008-PA05-P074) (2008).


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