On April 26, 1996, the accident at Chernobyl nuclear power plant led to the release into the atmosphere of considerable quantities of radionuclides. Most contaminated regions were in the southern Belarus, northern Ukraine and Bryansk and Kaluga regions of Russia. Main population groups exposed to the radioactivity released during the accident were the personnel at the Chernobyl plant and the rescue teams present on-site during the first hours, the cleanup workers (numbering about 600000) who participated in the decontamination and cleaning operations in the 30 km zone around the site, the residents of the same zone who were evacuated (numbering about 115000) and the inhabitants of contaminated zones (>=1 Ci/km2). Dose and dose rate levels as well as exposure pathways differ from one population group to another. A review of scientific articles published in the international literature till 1998 has been carried out. Apart the 28 deaths due to acute radiation sickness which occurred in the personnel of the plant and rescue teams within several days or weeks after the accident, two main public health consequences of the Chernobyl accident have been observed. First an unprecedented epidemic of thyroid cancers was detected in children first in 1992 in Belarus then in the Ukraine and to a lesser extent in Bryansk region. The spontaneous incidence of these tumours was multiplied by 100 in most contaminated regions. Although the role of the accident in this epidemic is now recognised, questions are raised regarding the respective role of radioactive agents and other environmental or genetic factors, and its evolution in the future. Regarding other kinds of solid cancers and leukemia, no excess has been clearly demonstrated in the residents of contaminated areas nor in liquidators. Second, results of available epidemiological investigations show an increased risk of psychological distress in residents of highly contaminated areas, evacuated people and liquidators but have not demonstrated severe psychiatric consequences. An increased psychological distress has also been demonstrated in other radiological accidents and disasters. It indicates a degradation of individual well-being and health and may increase health care demand and health risk behaviours. It should thus be regarded as an important consequence on public health.