Semey Revisited: The legacy of nuclear testing in Kazakhstan

Nearly 30 years after the closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in the steppes of eastern Kazakhstan, local people are still suffering the consequences of four decades of exposure to radiation. FRANCE 24’s reporters Sophie Guignon and Miyuki Droz Aramaki went to meet them (October 2018).

Environmental Radiation Exposure and Essential Hypertension in Semey, Kazakhstan

The Semipalatinsk Test Site (marked in red) was the main site for the nuclear testing of the former Soviet Union. It is situated in northeast Kazakhstan, approx. 150 kilometers west of the city Semey (until 2007 named Semipalatinsk)

In November 2018, a study in collaboration with CONEM Kazakhstan Environmental Health and Safety Research Group was published in the journal Environmental Research (1). The study examined the association between environmental radiation exposure and essential hypertension in a series of investigated geographical districts adjacent to the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in Kazakhstan. The sample consisted of 2000 volunteers who participated in screening examinations in three administrative districts close to the nuclear test site. The research was a part of the government programs in Kazakhstan on environmental health hazard (1).

In April 2019, this study was quoted in a news article by the US science journalist Wudan Yan in the prestigious journal Nature (2): “Lyudmila Pivina at Semey State Medical University and her colleagues found that long-term, low-dose radiation can lead to cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure. They looked at health outcomes in approximately 1,800 people, including second- and third-generation Polygon survivors. When they focused on individuals whose parents lived in areas that were exposed to radiation from 1949 to 1989, they found that the risks of hypertension went up in correlation with the amount of radiation someone’s parents received — a discovery that they found surprising”.

 

References

1. Markabayeva A, Bauer S, Pivina L, Bjørklund G, Chirumbolo S, Kerimkulova A, Semenova Y, Belikhina T. Increased prevalence of essential hypertension in areas previously exposed to fallout due to nuclear weapons testing at the Semipalatinsk Test Site, Kazakhstan. Environ Res 2018;167:129-135. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2018.07.016

2. Yan W. In the shadow of nuclear sins. Nature 2019: 568(4 April):22-24. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01034-8

An Introduction to Occupational and Environmental Medicine

This video is written and produced by Dr. Jon O’Neal, MD, MPH, FACOEM, and was released in 2016 at the annual conference of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM). The video gives a good overview and historical background of the discipline. It also includes a brief history and overview of workers compensation, as well as the occupational physician’s unique triangular relationship with worker and employer. In addition, the video presents information about common work exposures and routes of exposure, and the role of the occupational physician. This includes the prevention component of occupational medicine; treating injured workers; disability management; and various testing and monitoring roles, such as conducting preplacement exams; serving as medical review officers (MRO) in drug screening programs; conducting surveillance exams to measure ongoing effects of work exposures; monitoring fitness for safety-sensitive workers such as pilots.

The Interwoven Global Epidemics of Mercury Toxicity and Autism

In October 2017, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. published an article on the website of the World Mercury Project about one of CONEM’s studies (1). Kennedy is the son of former New York senator and U.S. attorney general Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of former President John F. Kennedy. He is an attorney, environmental activist and syndicated talk radio host. 

The Interwoven Global Epidemics of Mercury Toxicity and Autism

Metals wreak havoc on living systems, including humans, animals and plants alike. RFK, Jr. discusses a new review article in Environmental Research and pulls together a wide body of literature with the aim of summing up current research and emerging trends about the global epidemics of toxicity and autism.

Reference

1. Bjørklund G, Dadar M, Mutter J, Aaseth J. The toxicology of mercury: Current research and emerging trends. Environ Res 2017; 159: 545-554.

 

New Environmental Initiative in Semey, Kazakhstan: The Former Testing Site for the Soviet Union’s Nuclear Weapons

Council for Nutritional and Environmental Medicine (CONEM) has groups in different parts of the world. One of these is CONEM Kazakhstan Environmental Health and Safety Research Group. In June 2017, this group was established at the Semey State Medical University to promote environmental studies. Until 2007 Semey was known as Semipalatinsk. The Semipalatinsk Test Site was the primary testing venue for the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons. It is located on the steppe in northeast Kazakhstan, south of the valley of the Irtysh River. The head of the CONEM group in Kazakhstan is associate professor Lyudmila Pivina, MD, PhD.