Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

Vasilii, 15, is one of the many children in southern Belarus who suffer from severe birth defects. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The scientific debate is ongoing over whether congenital birth defects can be linked to radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that happened 30 years ago this month.

Physicians in the region have reported a sharp rise in birth defects there since 1986. 

A 2010 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found a correlation between the presence of hazardous levels of strontium-90 — a radioactive element produced by nuclear fission — and dramatically high rates of certain congenital birth defects. 

Belarus, whose border with Ukraine is just four miles from the Chernobyl power plant, absorbed an estimated 70% of the nuclear fallout. 

A study by UNICEF suggested that more than 20% of adolescent children in Belarus suffer from disabilities caused by birth defects. 

Getty photographer Sean Gallup recently visited care centers for children with disabilities in Belarus. Below, see Gallup’s images of the children living in these facilities. 

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