A University of South Carolina researcher has found that birds living near the site of the Chernobyl nuclear accident have smaller brains than normal.
Tim Mousseau, a USC biologist, was co-leader of an international research team that made the discovery while studying the impacts of the accident in the Ukraine. The Chernobyl power plant explosion and radiation leak occurred 25 years ago this spring.
Mousseau’s research shows that low-dose radiation has had significant impacts on normal brain development in birds. Birds had 5 percent smaller brains on average, the research found. Mousseau’s study team examined 550 birds from 48 species living in zones near the accident site. The youngest birds were most affected, the research team found.
“These findings point to broad-scale neurological effects of chronic exposure to low-dose radiation,’’ Mousseau said. “The fact that we see this pattern for a large portion of the bird community suggests a general phenomenon that may have significant long-term repercussions.’’