There could have been up to 9,000 excess cancer deaths due to Chernobyl disaster among the people who worked on the clean-up operations, evacuees and residents of the contaminated regions in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a report earlier this month.
"The WHO report on the health effects of Chernobyl gives the most affected countries, and their people, the information they need to be able to make vital public health decisions," said Dr Lee Jong-wook, WHO Director-General.
However, the environmental group Greenpeace challenged the WHO report and claimed that the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster could top a quarter of a million cancers cases and nearly 100,000 fatal cancers. Greenpeace report described the U.N. data on Chernobyl "as a gross simplification of the real breadth of human suffering."
The Greenpeace report said the incidence of cancer in Belarus had jumped 40 percent between 1990 and 2000, with children not yet born at the time of the disaster showing an 88.5-fold increase in thyroid cancers.
Gregory Haertl, a spokesman for Geneva-based WHO, reportedly defended its figures. He said the predicted eventual number of extra deaths in the most polluted areas of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia was estimated to be 4,000, while another 5,000 deaths were predicted among thos e who had been living in the less contaminated zones.
After the accident 116,000 people were evacuated from the area. An additional 230,000 people were relocated from the highly contaminated areas to other areas in subsequent years, according to the WHO. Russia has approved a series of bills to help Chernobyl victims and survivers, but not all of them are actually receiving promised aid.