Some of the hundreds of wildfires that have burned western Russia have been reported in areas that were heavily contaminated by fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Experts fear that smoke from fires in the area has become radioactive.

The head of Greenpeace Russia's energy program, Vladimir Chuprov told the New York Times, "Fires on these territories will without a doubt lead to an increase in radiation. The smoke will spread and the radioactive traces will spread. The amount depends upon the force of the wind." No one knows for sure if smoke from fires in radioactive areas is harmful, but it would be hard to bet against the assumption that yes, smoke from fires in the Chernobyl area is a health hazard.

But don't tell that to Russia's chief sanitary man, Dr. Gennadi G. Onishchenko, who told the Interfax news agency, "There is no need to sow panic. Everything is fine." Radioactive smoke? Don't sweat it!

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