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Learning English - Words in the News
24 August, 2007 - Published 11:08 GMT
Chernobyl affected Swedish children, researchers say
Chernobyl nuclear power plant

Researchers are claiming that the Chernobyl nuclear accident of 1986 impaired the mental development of Swedish children that were in the womb at the time of the incident. The study analysed the academic results of more than half a million Swedish children. This report from Neil Bowdler:

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The researchers studied the school results of more than 560,000 Swedish children born between 1983 and 1988. They found that academic performance was generally weaker in all those children who were in the womb at the precise time of the accident.

Results were the weakest among those children who were foetuses between eight and twenty-five weeks at the time of the explosion. This period, the researchers argue, is the peak period of brain development in the unborn child when brain cells may be at their most susceptible to low radiation. Children born in regions of Sweden which received the most fallout from Chernobyl were also seen to fare worse academically.

The results are controversial. Radiation levels recorded at the time of the accident in Sweden were relatively low - about twice the level of natural background radiation - and it's been thought up until now that such levels were not high enough to impair mental development. Responding to the research, David Brenner, a professor of radiation oncology at Columbia University, New York, said further studies of children in adjacent countries were needed to verify the findings.

Neil Bowdler, BBC

Listen to the words

in the womb

unborn human beings or animals whose organs have started to develop

the peak period of
the most important time for

at their most susceptible to
most easily affected, or harmed by

the radioactive dust in the air after a nuclear explosion or accident

to fare worse academically
to perform worse as a student, to not succeed at school as much as other students

causing disagreement or different views

to impair mental development
to harm the development of the brain

adjacent countries
countries that share a common border (here, with Sweden)

to verify the findings
to confirm or deny what the researchers are claiming

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