A high US medical physician who handled radiation victims in Chernobyl has criticized HBO’s depiction of the accident and radiation’s well being results as inaccurate and “dangerous.”
“Another error [in HBO’s “Chernobyl”] was to painting the victims as being dangerously radioactive,” UCLA’s Robert Gale wrote in “The Cancer Letter,” a subscription-based e-newsletter.
Gale has been a world-renowned skilled on bone marrow transplantation, which is used to deal with radiation victims, since earlier than the Chernobyl accident. After the accident, Gale reached out to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who requested Gale to return “immediately.”
“I spent the next two years mostly in the Soviet Union working with my colleagues at the Institute for Biophysics and Clinical Hospital 6 dealing with a bit more than 200 persons with acute radiation exposures,” Gale writes.
“In the subsequent 30 years, I have been involved in several studies of the long-term medical consequences of the accident—initially in the ex-Soviet Union and later in the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Belorussia.”
Gale, who labored for UCLA on the time of the accident, says that the firefighters who suffered from Acute Radiation Syndrome weren’t contagious, as they’re portrayed as by HBO’s “Chernobyl.”
“Most radiation contamination was superficial and relatively easily managed by routine procedures. This is entirely different than the  Goiania [Brazil] accident, where the victims ate 137-cesium [from an old teletherapy machine] and we had to isolate them from most medical personnel.”
Gale criticizes the portrayal in “Chernobyl” of a child’s demise supposedly from “absorbing” lethal quantities of radiation from her dying father, a firefighter who helped put out the blaze.
“The radiation would have killed the mother,” says HBO’s fictional scientist-hero performed by Emily Watson, “but the baby absorbed it instead.”
“Chernobyl” suggests strongly that the occasion really occurred, I famous in my final column, to which a variety of readers emailed or tweeted to say that the occasion did, in truth, happen. How did they know? Why, it was described in a guide, Voices From Chernobyl.
“She looked healthy,” says a personality from the guide. “But she had cirrhosis of the liver. Her liver had twenty-eight roentgen. Congenital coronary heart illness. Four hours later they informed me she was useless.”
For many readers these few sentences have been apparently proof ) a child died, b) an post-mortem was performed, c) the post-mortem discovered elevated radiation ranges within the liver and coronary heart illness, d) the radiation was traced to Chernobyl, and e) the outcomes of the post-mortem have been withheld from scientific authorities however shared with the mom.
But there isn’t any report that the occasion occurred, and Gale says it couldn’t have occurred.
“Lastly, there is the dangerous representation that, because one of the victims was radioactive, his pregnant wife endangered her unborn child by entering his hospital room,” writes Gale.
“First, as discussed, none of the victims were radioactive; their exposures were almost exclusively external, not internal,” writes Gale. “More importantly, risk to a fetus from an exposure like this is infinitesimally small.”
Even excessive ranges of radiation end in few start defects, Gale notes. “For example, amongst the several hundred pregnant women exposed to high-dose radiation from the A-bombs, there were only 29 children with attributable developmental defects. All were exposed in the second trimester, when cells are migrating to the brain from the neural crest.”
In HBO’s “Chernobyl,” the radiation victims look terrifying — extra like monsters, or zombies, than human. Gale writes, “the consequences are portrayed as one thing horrendous, unimaginable. This is inaccurate.
“In doing haematopoietic cell transplant, we generally expose individuals to a lot increased radiation doses than acquired by any of the Chernobyl victims. So do radiation therapists. We know what the toxicities are and we’re fairly efficient in mitigating them.”
As I famous final month, HBO’s “Chernobyl” misrepresents radiation publicity as the principle or solely issue behind the deaths of 29 firefighters. In actuality, writes Gale, there have been “synchronous injuries” that “make people more susceptible to radiation damage [and] can kill people even if you successfully reverse the radiation-induced damage.”
Fear-mongering, Gale famous, resulted in many ladies unnecessarily terminating their pregnancies.
“We estimate incorrect advice from physicians regarding the relationship between maternal radiation exposure from Chernobyl and birth defects,” writes Gale, “resulted in more than one million unnecessary abortions in the Soviet Union and Europe. Ignorance is dangerous.”
The exact same docs whose recommendation inspired a million girls to hunt abortions are additionally behind the claims by teams starting from Greenpeace to Helen Caldicott to MIT historian Kate Brown that many extra individuals died from Chernobyl radiation than specialists, the World Health Organization and the United Nations, discovered.
Gale knew that concern and panic would create extra hurt than radiation and so “I later brought my family to Kiev to reassure people there was no need to evacuate.”
Most radiation victims survived, Gale notes. “Our scorecard treating the 204 victims was reasonably good. Sadly, 29 died but we could rescue 175 (86 percent). If we include the two immediate deaths at the Chernobyl NPF, there were 31 deaths.”
Gale used a novel therapy technique, which he examined on himself. “One interesting intervention, suggested by Prof. David Golde (UCLA) was use of a molecularly cloned haematopoietic growth factor,” writes Gale.
“Sargramostim had been tested in dogs and monkeys to increase granulocytes, but had not been given to humans. We brought it into the Soviet Union from Switzerland—hidden in a passenger’s checked luggage with the permission of a Politburo Chernobyl commission,” Gale writes.
“The problem was the Soviets didn’t want the Chernobyl victims to be the first humans to receive a new therapy. The solution was for Vorobiev and I to inject one another with sargramostim,” writes Gale.
“We lived and so, we got permission to proceed.”
“I’m amazed the producers didn’t get technical recommendation from a well being physicist or radiobiologist relatively than basing a lot of their screenplay on a novel (Voices of Chernobyl),” write Gale.
In his article, Gale takes situation with the portrayal of Soviet authorities as reluctant to hunt exterior assist.
“I was immediately invited to come to Moscow and shortly thereafter to bring three colleagues,” Gale writes. “In my experience dealing with nuclear accidents, this is rather unusual and indicates a desire to do everything possible to help the victims—throwing politics to the wind. And whilst in Moscow, we were free to expropriate supplies and equipment from many Russian medical centers.”
“Even more extraordinary, when I requested the Soviets allow me to bring in an Israeli scientist to help (there were no diplomatic relations with Israel at the time), they agreed, albeit with some arm-twisting.”
Gale says the accident was inconceivable to cover-up, as portrayed by HBO. “Anyone looking at the destroyed reactor building, mass of firefighting equipment, and personnel streaming into the reactor complex—the smoke from the fire clearly visible from Pripyat about 4 km away etc.—I cannot imagine anyone would try to cover this up. It would be like standing in lower Manhattan after destruction of the Twin Towers and pretending there was no problem.”
“All governments try to contain bad news of this type,” notes Gale. “I see rather little difference between the initial U.S. government reaction to the Three Mile Island (TMI) accident, the initial Japan government reaction to the Fukushima-Daiichi accident, and the Soviet response to Chernobyl.”
“Although the 31 immediate Chernobyl-related deaths are sad,” he concludes, “the number of fatalities is remarkably small compared with many energy-related accidents, such as the Benxihu coal mine disaster in China 1942, which killed about 1500 miners, and the 1975 Banqiao dam accident, also in China, which killed about 250,000 people.”
“About 15,000 individuals reportedly die mining coal yearly, though the true quantity could also be a lot increased, and this determine doesn’t contemplate morbidity from occupational hazards reminiscent of coal staff’ pneumoconiosis (black lung illness).
“About 1 million Egyptians are estimated to have become blind from trachoma because of construction of the Aswan High Dam. For reference, about 400 Americans are estimated to die on the highway over Memorial Day weekend.”