IRSN, Institut de radioprotection et de sûreté nucléaire

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Cesium-137 : pectin's potential remedial role is an open question

In April 2005, the French Ambassador to the Belarus Republic called on the IRSN to undertake an all-inclusive appraisal of the effectiveness of pectin and the usefulness of using it in areas contaminated by radioactive fallout from the explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant’s No. 4 reactor.

This demand was made in the context of a project presentation during a CORE Programme Approval Board meeting by Belarus National Academy of Sciences member Professor Vassily Nesterenko, involving wide use of pectin . During the examination of this project, the Board members turned out to have highly divergent points of view about the role that pectin might play in reducing contamination levels in children living in districts affected by the fallout.

IRSN’s approach started by conducting a critical bibliographical analysis of the scientific and technical arguments posited to date on the subject of pectin, to clearly identify any controversial issues and gaps in knowledge as to its use as a dietary supplement in the cesium-contaminated districts. Furthermore, this analysis not only looked into the role of pectin on cesium but also its other uses in man, in order to gather a coherent set of data.

The scientific collection that formed the bibliographical analysis reference base, comprises 48 documents published in international scientific journals together with 6 reports that present specific interest although they have not been published in journals of this type. Some of them set out recommendations made by the Russian and Belarus Ministers of Health. All the documents sent by Professeur Vassily Nesterenko to the French Ambassador were also analysed.

It emerges that this literature search does not settle the question of pectin’s role in dealing with cesium-137 contaminations. No judgement can be made for or against its role for this indication from the documents analysed. The necessary data for appraising the role pectin’s potential role for children living in areas contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear power plant’s releases can only be provided by experimental studies on animal models and clinical studies.

Last January, the IRSN Director-General contacted the French Ambassador to the Belarus Republic offering to report on the matter with the various interested parties at a meeting to be organised in Minsk during 2006. This meeting will be chaired by Dr. Frédéric Bois, a scientific representative for the chronic risks division of INERIS the French Institute for the industrial environment and risk assessment. Dr. Bois is a high-level recognised and respected scientist who has not had to take a stand on the issue.

Download the repport (PDF file, 402 ko)

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