A specialist measures the level of radioactive contamination near Chernobyl The effects of Chernobyl are still being felt 16 years on Police in Ukraine have impounded a number of radioactive Christmas trees, reports say. The trees were said to have been cut down in an area contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. [...]
The nuclear disaster at Chernobyl was the world's worst After the region was covered by a radioactive cloud, a complete ban on the felling of trees in the contaminated forests surrounding Chernobyl was imposed. Police said the local businessmen knew the trees from the Zhytomyr region were contaminated, and used forged documents to sell them. [...]
PUNTA ARENAS, Chile -- Everything is different here at the bottom of the world, starting with the weather. Before Alejandra Mundaca lets her two children go out, she checks the forecast for the temperature, the chance of rain and the level of ultraviolet rays. For the last decade, the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica has been growing larger and recently expanded over Punta Arenas, the southernmost city on the planet. Its 125,000 residents have reluctantly learned to adapt.
They closely watch the color-coded warnings of a "solar stoplight" publicized on television and radio, and even posted on street corners. Even on warm days, most people wear jackets or long-sleeved shirts or blouses. Many wear sunglasses and make sure to apply 50-proof sunblock even when the sky is blanketed in clouds. <LJ-CUT text=" --More--(40%) ">
"Life has changed a lot for us over the past few years, and I know that my sons are not going to be able to enjoy the same kind of childhood that I had growing up here," said Mundaca, 33, a schoolteacher. "We used to look forward to spring as relief from the long harsh winter, but now it is a time of maximum peril for all of us who live here."
The ozone layer is a thin covering of gas in the stratosphere that absorbs most of the sun's ultraviolet rays. Since scientists first discovered the hole over Antarctica in the mid-1980s, it has nearly doubled in size and now covers an area larger than North America during the Southern Hemisphere spring. The arms of the hole occasionally extend as far as southern Chile and Argentina.
On a typical day here in December, the solar stoplight was set at orange, the second highest of four levels, and people were warned to limit their exposure to the sun between noon and 3 p.m. to 21 minutes at most
"When the light is red, I don't let my kids go out to play at all," Liliana Navarro Torres said, referring to Kimberley, 6, and Jonathan, 4. "They don't like it much, and sometimes it drives me crazy to have them running around the house, but that's the way it has to be when you live here."
The growth of the ozone hole is attributed largely to chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, that were widely used in aerosol sprays and refrigerants until a 1987 agreement was reached to phase them out. But scientists also say that global warming may be contributing to the phenomenon
During much of the 1990s, there was resistance here to accepting signs that the risks to people were growing. The warnings of scientists like Bedrich Magas of Magallanes University, one of the first to emphasize the potential dangers, were dismissed by locals who feared a drop in tourism
But that changed in September 2000, when the ozone hole opened directly over Punta Arenas. The Socialist government responded with a far-reaching prevention and education program that has become visible everywhere
"It's a new way of living," said Lidia Amarales Osorno, the regional director of Chile's Health Ministry in Punta Arenas. "You'll see the solar stoplight posted in supermarkets, offices and schools, and we even have an ozone brigade to raise consciousness about this problem."
In elementary schools, a giant penguin named Paul leads a permanent campaign to teach children the steps they need to take to protect themselves. Many schools also hoist a flag each morning to alert their pupils' families of the expected level of ultraviolet rays. In some poor neighborhoods, free skin creams are distributed to youngsters