Russia’s Fires: What is the Fallout?

By Adam Lukszo, Center for Strategic Research

Silhouette of two fire fighters against the background of a forest fire.At this time there is no consensus on what the potential health hazards will be should the forest fires in Russia burn in the areas contaminated by the Chernobyl accident. Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu, independent organizations, and individual scientists appear to agree that the fires have the potential to re-release nuclear contamination from the Chernobyl accident into the air should the fires burn in the affected zones. 

However, it is the impact of this potentially radioactive laced smoke that is currently unknown and in dispute.  It may spread the area of contamination but as to where it will spread, the level of radioactive re-release, and how hazardous it will be to the population’s health is unknown.  Currently, the exposure to carbon monoxide and particulate pollution, at five and three times acceptable levels respectively, appear to be the greater concern for Russian health officials.

 What is known is that Moscow is struggling to deal with the outcomes from one of the worst heat wave-induced series of fires (500 as of yesterday) raging across the Eurasian plateaus, that is causing a serious economic and public health crisis for the population.


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