Cataracts among Chernobyl clean-up workers: Implications regarding permissible eye exposures

B. V. Worgul, Y. I. Kundiyev, N. M. Sergiyenko, V. V. Chumak, P. M. Vitte, C. Medvedovsky, E. V. Bakhanova, A. K. Junk, O. Y. Kyrychenko, N. V. Musijachenko, S. A. Shylo, O. P. Vitte, S. Xu, X. Xue, R. E. Shore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

284 Scopus citations


The eyes of a prospective cohort of 8,607 Chernobyl clean-up workers (liquidators) were assessed for cataract at 12 and 14 years after exposure. The prevalence of strictly age-related cataracts was low, as expected (only 3.9% had nuclear cataracts at either examination), since 90% of the cohort was younger than 55 years of age at first examination. However, posterior subcapsular or cortical cataracts characteristic of radiation exposure were present in 25% of the subjects. The data for Stage 1 cataracts, and specifically for posterior subcapsular cataracts, revealed a significant dose response. When various cataract end points were analyzed for dose thresholds, the confidence intervals all excluded values greater than 700 mGy. Linear-quadratic dose-response models yielded mostly linear associations, with weak evidence of upward curvature. The findings do not support the ICRP 60 risk guideline assumption of a 5-Gy threshold for "detectable opacities" from protracted exposures but rather point to a dose-effect threshold of under 1 Gy. Thus, given that cataract is the dose-limiting ocular pathology in current eye risk guidelines, revision of the allowable exposure of the human visual system to ionizing radiation should be considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-243
Number of pages11
JournalRadiation Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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