“………..For Soviet leaders, the river dwellers were a unique opportunity in the history of health physics—what scientists call “a natural experiment” that promised to answer an important civil defense question about how to survive a nuclear attack. In 1962, the Cheliabinsk branch of the Soviet Institute of Bio-Physics, called FIB-4, started conducting regular medical exams of the Muslumovo population. FIB-4 doctors invited village children playing on the streets to a clinic room to take blood samples. In Cheliabinsk, they set up a repository of irradiated body parts: hearts, lungs, livers, bones. They started a collection of genetically malformed babies who died soon after birth, each infant preserved in a two-quart glass jar. A Dutch photographer, Robert Knoth, visited the repository and saw hundreds of babies in jars. He photographed one infant with skin like patched, rough burlap. Another boy had eyes on top of his head like a frog. During the examinations, doctors did not inform the villagers of their exposures or of diagnoses of radiation-related illness.
In 1986, soon after the Chernobyl disaster, Glufarida Galimova, working as chief doctor at a pediatric clinic in Muslumovo, her native town, was puzzled by the saturation of illness in her community. The illnesses were rare, strange, complex, and often genetic: hydrocephalic children, children with cerebral palsy, missing kidneys, extra fingers, anemia, fatigue, and weak immune systems. Many kids were orphaned or had invalid parents.
Galimova asked other doctors about it. They said the villagers were sick of their own doing, from poor diet and alcohol. Doubtful, Galimova investigated and learned that FIB-4 had a 50-year-old registry with Muslumovo’s health records. She requested the records be opened to the public. Her requests went unanswered. She went to the press and helped organize citizens’ groups. The security services accused her of disclosing state secrets, and she was fired from her job. Undaunted, …..
…..In 1992, FIB-4 doctors finally declassified Muslumovo residents’ health records. Galimova discovered that in 1950, plutonium plant doctors came up with a new disease, diagnosed, so far, only in the Russian Urals—chronic radiation syndrome (CRS), caused by extended exposure to low doses of radioactive isotopes. The first young plant workers diagnosed with the syndrome complained of headaches, sharp pains in bones and joints, and a constant weariness. One memoirist described the terrible ache of CRS as a pain that made him “want to crawl up the walls.” They lost weight. Their gait slowed. They suffered severe anemia, wheezed heavily, and started to show signs of heart disease. The doctors learned to predict the onset of this mysterious new illness by changes in the blood, often signaled in severe anemia.
Soviet radiation biology took a different trajectory from science in the United States. American researchers at that time were working with the highly politicized medical studies of Japanese bomb survivors. They narrowed the list of radiation-related illnesses to leukemia, a few cancers, and thyroid disease. Soviet doctors in formulating chronic radiation syndrome had grasped the effects of radiation on the body more holistically. They determined that radiation illness is not a specific, stand-alone disorder, but that its indications relate to other illnesses. They determined that radioactive isotopes weaken immune systems and damage organ tissue and arteries, causing illnesses of the circulation and digestive tracts and making people susceptible to conventional diseases long before they succumb to radiation-related concerns http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2013/04/nuclear_contamination_in_former_ussr_radioactivity_in_muslomovo_on_techa.html