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Thirty years after Chernobyl disaster, families say children are getting sick

It will be 30 years on Tuesday since the world's worst nuclear power plant disaster took place in Chernobyl, now part of Ukraine. People who remained in the region continued eating local produce and milk with radiation levels two to five times higher than what are considered safe levels. NewsHour Weekend's Ivette Feliciano reports on how local families say children are getting sick.

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  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    The disaster forced tens of thousands of residents around Chernobyl to flee and never some back.

    But many other people remained in a zone that was considered safe enough distance to stay.

    In the village of Zalyshany, about 32 miles southwest of Chernobyl, 8-year-0ld Bogdan Vetrov suffers from an enlarged thyroid gland.

  • His mother, Viktoria, believes it is due to radiation found in their food, but she says her family’s options are:

    eat food that may be contaminated or starve.

  • VIKTORIA VETROVA:

    We are aware of the dangers, but what can we do? There is no other way to survive here. Especially in this region we just cannot survive.

  • IVETTE FELICIANO:

    Vetrov and his siblings are among 350,000 children living in areas where monitoring radiation in the soil ended four years ago.

    Greenpeace, the European Union and the World Health Organization have found links between contaminated produce and milk and increased levels of thyroid cancer.

    One E.U. study tracked 4,000 children for three years and found more than 80 percent of them had cardiovascular issues.

    Doctors who perform annual checks on children here have seen that first-hand.

  • YURY BANDAZHEVSKY, PEDIATRICIAN:

    There are very serious pathological processes, which definitely will unfortunately have negative consequences on the development of these children.

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