Gelani Dombayev and his cat enjoy a cup of tea, and a moment of normalcy, in their Muslyumovo village home in Russia. A 50-year medical study has followed some 30,000 people who live near the Techa River in an effort to uncover the serious health risks, including cancer, caused by exposure to radioactive wastes from the nearby Mayak nuclear facility.
While use of the river for drinking, bathing, and agriculture were officially banned in 1953, Muslyumovo’s residents were kept in the dark for decades about their exposure to deadly radioactive materials. Water use continued, and environmental exposures mounted, even as serious illnesses became disturbingly common among the population.
The study has shown significantly higher occurrences of leukemia and other cancers among these people, in addition to many other adverse health effects.