Elevated congenital anomaly rates and incorporated cesium-137 in the Polissia region of Ukraine.

Wertelecki W, Koerblein A, Ievtushok, Zymak-Zakutnia N, Komov O, Kuznietsov I, Lapchenko S, Sosyniuk

Investigations soon after the 1986 Chornobyl (Chernobyl in Russian) accident of exposed populations residing elsewhere in Europe led government and international agencies to conclude that exposures to cesium-137 (Cs-137) were not teratogenic. Our observations of elevated population rates of neural tube defects (NTDs) and microcephaly and microphthalmia (M/M) in the Rivne Province in Ukraine, which were among the highest in Europe, prompted this follow-up investigation inclusive of whole-body counts (WBCs) of Cs-137 among ambulatory patients and pregnant women residing in Polissia, the most polluted region in Rivne.

Yearly (2000-2012) population rates of NTDs and M/M and WBC patterns of ambulatory patients (2001-2010) and pregnant women (2011-2013) in Polissia and non-Polissia regions of Rivne were analyzed.

The NTD and M/M population rates in Rivne remain elevated and are statistically significantly higher in Polissia than in non-Polissia. The WBCs among residents in Polissia are statistically significantly higher than among those from non-Polissia.

NTD and M/M rates are highest in the Polissia region of Rivne and are among the highest in Europe. In Polissia, the WBCs of Cs-137 are above officially set permissible upper limits. The results are based on aggregate data of NTDs and M/Ms and average WBC values. Further investigations of causality of the high rates of NTDs and M/Ms are needed and urgent strengthening policies and implementations to reduce exposures to teratogens, in particular radioactive nuclides and alcohol, and consumption of folic acid supplements are indicated. Birth Defects Research (Part A), 2016. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.