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By the National CFIDS Foundation Medical Committee © 2012*

*All rights reserved: Writtten permission for reprinting or reposting ©2011

From Fall 2012 Forum


The discovery of a unique mitochondrial DNA deletion for CFIDS/ME patient biopsies matching one-hundred percent to those for exposure to ionizing radiation has propelled the NCF to take a much deeper look at the research literature [1,2]. In this review, the NCF confirmed earlier research reports that tied low-level ionizing radiation exposure to the development of CFIDS/ME. Worldwide, the NCF became the first patient organization to formally announce the connection between ionizing radiation and the development of the CFIDS/ME disease process [3,4]. Scientific evidence suggests that genomic instability, which is a critical step in carcinogenesis, may be important in the effectiveness of radiation as a carcinogen [5]. The NCF's on-going scientific research is aimed to assist in the verification of these critical findings.


Previously, the NCF had done a quick review of the scientific journal articles directly linking ionizing radiation effects to CFIDS/ME. The NCF had also provided an initial list of these important articles to the patient and scientific community [6-9]. Since then, the NCF's extensive patient testing in addition to this latest discovered information acts to further confirm this critical link.

Published Scientific Observations:

"Internalized radionuclides" is the terminology that the NCF will use for internal contamination from these critical radioisotopes. Internal contamination includes radionuclide inhalation or respiration, ingestion as well as wound contamination. The NCF considers radionuclide ingestion and inhalation to be the primary mechanisms for contamination in CFIDS/ME. Much of the additional information linking ionizing radiation exposure to the development of CFIDS/ME came from research studies associated with the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster that occurred in April of 1986.

The first document, titled "The Chernobyl Catastrophe: Consequences on Human Health" was written by Greenpeace in 2006 [10]. This report presents key information concerning the health impact of this major technological catastrophe. The document is based on publications, including those in languages other than English - Ukrainian, Russian and Belarussian, presented by well-known scientists, many of whom have been working on Chernobyl health related issues since 1986 - 1988.

According to this report, personnel of the Chernobyl exclusion zone who have been working since 1986 were the highest risk group for neuropsychiatric disorders (93 - 100% of population affected). Organic, including symptomatic mental disorders, were predominant. Work and life in the Chernobyl exclusion zone since 1986 for ten or more years were associated with probability of mental health deterioration 3.4 - 6.2 times higher in comparison with the general population, and 2 - 3.9 times higher than survivors of military conflicts or natural disasters. Mental health deterioration in the Chernobyl personnel was related to (a) their exposure dose and (b) duration of their work in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, pointing to a potentially cumulative effect. In a considerable proportion of the personnel, especially those who continued their work in the 1990's, pathology met the criteria of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), leading to suggestions that CFS may be developing under the combined impacts of low or very low doses of ionizing radiation and psychological stress.

A second document, titled "Health Effects of Chernobyl: 25 Years After the Reactor Catastrophe" was written in 2011 by scientists associated with the German Affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War [11]. This reference provides important documented data associated with the Chernobyl disaster.

The report stated that tens of thousands of liquidators suffer from dysphasia, depression, memory dysfunction and concentration problems. Dr. Julia Malova, psychiatrist at the Moscow Centre for radiation diseases where she is especially concerned with liquidators’ health explained, “Our theory is that, in some way, the flow of blood to the brain has been, and possibly still is, reduced.” These types of illnesses occur significantly more often among liquidators than the rest of the population.

Another complex of symptoms found particularly often among liquidators is the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). According to Dr. Loganovsky the diagnostic criteria for CFS apply to 26% of people that received a radiation exposure of less than 0.3 sievert. The frequency of CFS has decreased from 65.5% of liquidators in 1990 - 1995 to 10.5% in 1995 - 2001, while the so-called Metabolic Syndrome X (MSX) has simultaneously increased from 15 to 48.2%. CFS and MSX are regarded as being symptomatic of the development of other neuropsychiatric and physical illnesses. CFS is also regarded as being synonymous with environmentally influenced vulnerability to, and an indication of the onset of neurodegeneration, of cognitive impairment and neuropsychiatric disturbances. The left side of the brain appears to be more vulnerable than the right side.

Dr. Pierre Flor-Henry reported that the observed depressive status-displays and clinical syndromes such as schizophrenia and CFS, that prevail amongst a high percentage of the liquidators, are accompanied by organic changes in the brain, mainly in the left cerebrum (by right-handers) and can be objectified with the aid of the electroencephalogram (EEG). Their group believes this indicates that various neurological and psychiatric illnesses can be caused by exposure to radiation levels between 0.15 and 0.5 Sievert.

Symptoms are also expressed in the form of the premature aging phenomenon. These neurological clinical pictures appear earlier, and more severely, the younger the victim was at the time of exposure to radiation.

Dr. Flor-Henry also reported that similar clinical syndromes, which are accompanied by EEG changes in the left cerebrum, have also been observed among liquidators suffering from acute radiation syndrome. It surprises him that neither these psychiatric illnesses nor EEG changes have appeared among the Russian veterans of the lost war in Afghanistan. These soldiers had, after all, been subject to enormous levels of traumatic stress but, unlike the Chernobyl liquidator, had not been treated as heroes in their homeland. However, with the aid of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), EEG and positron emissions tomography (PET) it is possible to prove that cerebral changes in Chernobyl liquidators and veterans of the first Gulf War, as well as the war in Bosnia, are very similar. Dr. Flor-Henry attributes this to the use of projectiles containing uranium (depleted Uranium, DU), in both the Gulf and Bosnian wars, which released uranium-238-oxide dust into the air upon impact, allowing it to be inhaled. He has found that those victims who were exposed to uranium-238 developed similar neuropsychiatric syndromes as the atom bomb survivors of Japan in 1945.

A neurological study by Dr. L.A. Zhavoronkova from the Institute of Neurophysiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Dr. N.B. Kholodova from the Institute of Radiology, Ministry of Public Health, found liquidators’ higher cognitive and psychological functions to be impaired: sluggishness of thought, increased fatigue, reduced visual and verbal memory functions, and diminished higher motor functions. The findings are similar to those for premature aging.

Another study within the framework of the French-German Chernobyl Initiative, using standardized structured psychiatric interviews, put the extent of mental disturbance among liquidators at 36% and at 20.5% for the entire Ukrainian population. The increased frequency of depression turned out to be really dramatic: 24.5% amongst liquidators and 9.1% for the general population in the Ukraine.

A progressive increase in neuropsychiatric disturbances has also been noticed among liquidators who worked in the restricted zone around Chernobyl from 1986 until 1987, and in particular among those who spent 3 to 5 years there. The increased frequency of neuropsychiatric disturbances among the workforce who had been there since 1986/1987 and received radiation doses of more than 250 millisievert (mSv), was put at 80.5% and for radiation doses under 250 mSv at 21.4% (p <0.001). Dr. Loganovsky reported that since 1990, there has been an increase in schizophrenic disease: 5.4 per 10,000 among the workforce as compared to 1.1 per 10,000 in the general population. The schizophrenia incident rate among the people living and working in the Chernobyl zone rose 2.4-fold in the period from 1986 - 1997 and 3.4-fold in the period from 1990-1997 as compared to the rest of the Ukrainian population.

The third document, titled "Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment" is a thorough treatise on this topic as well as an excellent reference published by the New York Academy of Sciences [12]. In addition to the extensive compilation of various statistics associated with the Chernobyl disaster, much of which has already been discussed above, the authors state that "CFS may therefore be one of the most widespread consequences of the catastrophe for liquidators."

One of the more interesting chapters contains information regarding food contamination. Food contaminated in the United States as a result of Chernobyl is especially interesting because of the wide geographical scale of contamination and the broad range of contaminated foods. In spite of official secrecy, the full picture of Chernobyl food contamination in the U.S. continues to become more visible. The peak of Chernobyl-derived I-131 in imported foods was observed in May – June 1986, and for Cs-134 and Cs-137, some 10 to 16 months after the catastrophe. Between May 5, 1986, and December 22, 1988, the FDA tested 1,749 samples of imported foods for I-131, Cs-134, and Cs-137 contamination. The survey had been classified and was only obtained after a recent freedom of information request (2008). The first food imported into the United States that was contaminated from Chernobyl radioactivity was fish from Norway with a detectable level of Cs-137. The contamination was revealed on May 5, 1986, that is, 11 days after the catastrophe. In May – June 1986, it was found that 15 samples of imported foods (mostly mushrooms and cheese from Italy, but also cheese from West Germany and Denmark) exceeded the I-131 level of 1,000 pCi/kg.

According to other data, up to 24% of the imported food sampled in 1989 was noticeably contaminated. By 1990, 25% of samples were contaminated; in 1991, 8% of samples; and in 1992, 2%.

The food products contaminated by Chernobyl radioactivity imported into the United States from 1986 to 1988 originated from (in order of the number of cases): Turkey, Italy, Austria, West Germany, Greece, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Sweden, Denmark, Egypt, France, the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland. The contaminated foodstuffs, in order of prevalence, were: apple juice, cheese, pasta, oregano, berry juices, mushrooms, hazelnuts, filberts, sage, figs, laurel leaves, tea, thyme, red lentils, juniper, caraway seeds, endive, apricots, and even Swiss chocolate. A table is included that shows the level of radioactive contamination in local milk after the catastrophe all over the US. In spite of all the measurements, according to the officially derived intervention level, it is a fact that Chernobyl fallout has deposited harmful radioisotopes across the entire extent of North America.

On March 11th, 2011, an earthquake and tsunami struck Japan and led to a meltdown of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The extensive release of radioactive material into the air, water and soil raises serious concerns about internalized radionuclides and the long-term risk of CFIDS/ME, cancer and neurodegenerative illnesses in Japan's residents. Chernobyl's nuclear disaster may have served as a realistic preview for the ecological as well as the health associated aftermath of the most recent Fukushima disaster.


1. Unusual pattern of mitochondrial DNA deletions in skeletal muscle of an adult human with chronic fatigue syndrome; Zhang C, Baumer A, Mackay IR, Linnane AW, Nagley P; Hum Mol Genet. 1995 Apr;4(4):751-4.

2. Mitochondrial DNA point mutations and a novel deletion induced by direct low-LET radiation and by medium from irradiated cells; Murphy JEJ, Nugent S, Seymour C, Mothersill C; Mutation Research 585 (2005) 127–136

3. National CFIDS Foundation (NCF) Announces Link between Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Low Level Radiation Exposure; Press Release — August 20, 2010

4. NCF Discusses Radiation Link to CFIDS/ME; NCF Medical Committee; The National FORUM; Fall 2010

5. Long-term genomic instability in human lymphocytes induced by single-particle irradiation; Kadhim MA, Marsden SJ, Goodhead DT, Malcolmson AM, Folkard M, Prise KM, Michael BD; Radiat Res. 2001 Jan;155(1 Pt 1):122-6

6. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as a characteristic aftermath of radioecological catastrophe; Loganovsky KN; International Journal of Psychophysiology, Abstracts; 35 (2000) 61-75.

7. Psychophysiological Features of Somatosensory Disorders in Victims of the Chernobyl Accident; Loganovsky KN; Human Physiology, Vol. 29, No. 1, 2003, 110–117.

8. Vegetative-Vascular Dystonia and Osteoalgetic Syndrome or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as a Characteristic After-Effect of Radioecological Disaster: The Chernobyl Accident Experience; Loganovsky KN; Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; Vol 7, Issue 3 Sept 1999, 3-16.

9. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome a Possible Effect of Low and Very Low Doses of Ionizing Radiation; Loganovsky KN, Nyagu AI, Loganovskaja TK; Abstracts of the International Conference "The Effects of Low and Very Low Doses of Ionizing Radiation on Human Health," World Council of Nuclear Workers, Univ. of Versailles, France, 16–18 June, 1999, p. 14.

10. The Chernobyl Catastrophe: Consequences on Human Health; Greenpeace Intl; 184 pages, 2006;

11. Health Effects of Chernobyl: 25 Years After the Reactor Catastrophe (IPPNW and GFS Report); Pflugbeil S (Society for Radiation Protection), Paulitz H (German Affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War - IPPNW), Claussen A (IPPNW), Schmitz-Feuerhake I (Society for Radiation Protection); 67 pages, 2011

12. Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment; Yablokov AV, Nesterenko VB, Nesterenko AV; Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences; Vol 1181, 349 pgs, 2009

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