The Lingering Effect of Chernobyl

Potassium iodide apparently looks like cocaine.

And this, of course, is why nuclear accidents are so scary; even if you come through feeling fine there are lots of ways you can end up suffering ill-effects in the long run:

Nearly 25 years after the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, children and teenagers who drank contaminated milk or ate affected cheese in the days and weeks after the explosion still suffer from an increased risk of thyroid cancer, according to a study released Thursday by the National Cancer Institute. The study confirms earlier research about the risks of radioactive iodine, which can accumulate in the thyroid gland and lead to cancer later. Potassium iodide is often given as a supplement to prevent the accumulation of the radioactive type in thyroid glands, but Russian authorities failed to provide the supplement to all those at risk.

The part where the Soviet authorities just didn’t pony up the potassium iodide needed is a reminder that in all kinds of crisis situations there’s no substitute for well-functioning government.