Reading aloud A study on the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster is provoking excitement in the UK. The statistician John Urquhart told the science magazine New Scientist that the radioactive radiation after the accident for additional deaths in babies and for increased malformations is responsible. The researcher had examined 80, 000 cases of birth defects between 1983 and 1992. He found that the rate of defects in five of fifteen districts in England and Wales increased in the years 1986-1989. According to his calculations, more than 600 children were born with malformations such as Down syndrome, open back or cleft lip and palate. In addition, about 200 additional deaths of children up to the age of 1 were recorded.

Urquhart suspects that the radioactive fallout may have weakened the children's or parent's immune system, making pathogens such as viruses easier to play with. His study, however, does not rule out other reasons for the increase in malformations and deaths.

Other experts doubt the study meanwhile. Michael Clark of the UK's National Radiological Protection Board said on BBC Online that the radioactive cloud of the Chernobyl disaster had just swept across northern England and north Wales and failed. However, some of the conspicuous districts are in the south and southwest of the island. In addition, studies in other countries, including Germany, Hungary and Ukraine itself, have shown no evidence of increased infant mortality.

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