March 2013 | Volume 121 | Issue 3
On the Cover | Focus
After the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, Soviet officials took immediate steps to limit the health impacts of the contamination by removing the region’s residents and managing the land as a protective buffer absent of human communities. In contrast, Japan’s current recovery plan following the Fukushima Daiichi explosions revolves around removing contamination from the landscape to allow residents to move back home. But this management strategy is meeting with opposition from Fukushima residents. Lessons learned from Chernobyl may yet prescribe a different path forward for Japan.
Commercial PCBs were banned in 1979 because of concerns about their environmental persistence and adverse human health effects. Until recently, PCBs that were being detected in the environment were thought to come entirely from “legacy” sources. But other, lesser-known PCBs continue to be generated and released into the environment, not from intentionally created commercial products, but as unintentional by-products of manufacturing processes—most notably, according to recent studies, processes including those used to make certain pigments used in dyes, inks, and paints.