LOCHARD J. - Rehabilitation of Living Conditions in Territories contaminated by the Chernobyl Accident : The ETHOS Project.
Health Physics, Vol. 93, N° 5, 2007, pp. 522-526.
The ETHOS project, supported by the radiation protection research program of the European Commission (EC), was implemented in the mid-1990's with the support of the Belarus authorities as a pilot project to initiate a new approach for the rehabilitation of living conditions in the contaminated territories of the Republic. This initiative followed a series of studies performed in the context of the EC Community of Independent States cooperation program to évaluate the consequences of the Chernobyl accident (1991-1995), which clearly brought to the fore that a salient characteristic of the situation in these territories was the progressive and general loss of control of the population on its daily life. Futhermore, due to the economic difficulties during the years following the breakdown of the USSR, the population was developing private production and, in the absence of knowledge and adequate means to control the radiological quality of foodstuffs, the level of internal exposure was rising significantly. The aim of the project was primarily to involve directly the population wishing to stay in the territories in the day-to-day management of the radiological situation with the goal of improving their protection and their living conditions. It was based on clear ethical principles and implemented by an interdisciplinary team of European experts with specific skills in radiation protection, agronomy, social risk management, communication, and cooperation in complex situations, with the support of local authorities and professionals. In a first phase (1996-1999), the ETHOS Project was implemented in a village located in the Stolyn District in the southern part of Belarus. During this phase, a fews tens of villagers were involved in a step-by-step evaluation of the local radiologicial situation to progressively regain control of their daily life. In a second phase (1999-2001), the ETHOS Project was extended to four other localities of the District with the objective to evaluate the feasibility of the application of the ETHOS approach by local professionals and authorities. The ETHOS experience has shown that the direct involment of the population in te day-to-day management of the radiological situation was a necessary approach to complement the rehabilitation program implemented by public authorities in contaminated territories. It also demonstrated that to be effective and sustainable, this involvement must rely on the dissemination of a “practical radiological protection culture” within all segments of the population, and especially among professionals in charge of public health and education. This paper discusses the post-Chernobyl context in the early-and mid-1990's, which led Belarus authorities to look for new approach to protect the population residing in the long-term contaminated territories of the Republic. It then describes the ETHOS methodology and its main results. It also summarizes the general conclusions that can be drawn from the ETHOS Project.