ARCH Strategic Research Agenda

Executive Summary

With the support of the European Commission, an international group of experts and advisors formed the project “ARCH: Agenda for Research on Chernobyl Health” to review the health consequences of exposure to radiation from the Chernobyl accident and provide advice on the studies needed to be carried out in the future. The current document is ARCH’s proposal for a Strategic Research Agenda (SRA), outlining a reasoned long-term plan for research into the health consequences of radiation from the Chernobyl accident.
There are several main reasons why even now, over 20 years after the accident it is important that the European Commission supports a long-term coordinated research programme on the health effects of the Chernobyl accident. Health effects from this European accident continue and future effects are uncertain. Past knowledge of radiation effects is largely based on atomic bomb studies, but Chernobyl involved a very different type of exposure. Assumptions on the risk of low dose exposure have been challenged by recent advances in radiobiology. Estimates of deaths due to the Chernobyl accident vary widely.
The ARCH group of experts and advisors therefore support proposals for the long term funding of a Chernobyl Health Effects Research Foundation, similar to the action taken to create the Radiation Effects Research Foundation some years after the atomic bomb exposures in Japan, together with a series of individual studies covering the main health consequences. These include the ongoing thyroid cancer problem, the reported rise in breast cancer, inherited molecular-genetic alterations, and various cancers, cataracts and other non-cancer diseases in liquidators and in the general exposed population. Long-term studies of already existing groups with known radiation doses would provide invaluable information on the life-time risks of both external and internal exposure.
Unless coordinated studies are set up, together with a mechanism to ensure long-term funding, the long-term consequences of a nuclear accident involving the exposure of many millions of people to radiation will not be properly studied, speculation will flourish, and knowledge essential to assessing the risks of radiation exposure will be lost.

IARC 2010