“We passed the red line,” says prominent Russian scientist Dr. Alexey Yablokov, who stopped by Blacksmith’s offices for a chat recently when he was in New York.
Dr. Yablokov is one of the world’s leading authorities on radiation contamination. He is a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and was an advisor to the Russian government under Yeltsin and Gorbachev. He has worked for years to rein in the “Cold War inheritance” of toxic pollution. Today, he continues bringing attention to the persistent problem of legacy pollution as well as contamination brought on by modern industry.
In the interview, he notes the vast amount of chemicals and radionuclides that have permeated the environment since the 1950s, and he attributes that to the “disappearance” of a staggering amount of people from the world population today. (Watch the video for the actual number)
Why then isn’t pollution bigger news? Well, because pollution is, in many ways, invisible. He believes it is an issue many people fail to notice, especially when they are being poisoned by low doses of pollutants in an environment that presents no immediate danger. “No immediate danger,” Dr. Yablokov points out, does not mean no danger.
He is especially critical of the nuclear industry. He co-authored a controversial book Chernobyl:Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment that claims official discussions about Chernobyl have largely undercounted the disaster’s true toll and that many findings reported in Eastern European scientific literature were ignored.
According to Dr. Yablokov, one of the solutions to the pollution problem is education. Only when people know more about what is happening can they take steps to keep themselves safe.
Dr. Yablokov is currently working on helping to identify and assess hotspots in Russia for Blacksmith’s Toxic Sites Identification Program. He is also writing several papers for the Blacksmith Journal of Health and Pollution.