MOSCOW -- Many more people were bombarded by high doses of radiation from the Chernobyl accident than officially reported, and even those who received small doses are in jeopardy, a pioneering Russian-American study has found.
"We have gotten a completely new picture of the medical consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe," said Dr. Vladimir M. Lupandin, a Russian physician who was one of the leading investigators in the survey.
"The situation is worse in human health terms than the International Atomic Energy Agency said after its six-day survey, worse than the former Soviet Health Ministry said," commented Francis Macy, a psychologist at the Center for U.S.-U.S.S.R. Initiatives in San Francisco and an American participant in the study.
Mr. Lupandin, who interviewed health professionals serving communities dusted with fallout, said as many as 10,000 to 12,000 evacuees from just one of the districts of Belarus lying within a 30-kilometer (18.5-mile) radius of the power plant showed symptoms of heavy irradiation after the reactor explosion and fire in April 1986.
Soviet public health officials and IAEA experts have maintained that only around 100 people were hit with large radiation doses. Mr. Lupandin said the very low figure was patently absurd, but fully understandable.
"The KGB told doctors not to tell anyone anything," Mr. Lupandin told a Moscow conference of grass-roots environmental activists.
IAEA researchers were fed blatantly false information, he added.
The leaders of the 13-month research project said it supported the pessimistic forecasts of John W. Gofman, professor emeritus of medical physics at the University of California, Berkeley, that the health of at least 1 million people has been menaced because Chernobyl exposed them to low-level, but prolonged, radiation.