Genetic and Somatic Eflects of Carbon-14

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Science  14 Nov 1958:
Vol. 128, Issue 3333, pp. 1183-1186
DOI: 10.1126/science.128.3333.1183


On the basis of information about carbon-14 given by Libby, calculations are made of the predicted genetic and somatic effects of the carbon-14 produced by the testing of nuclear weapons. It is concluded that 1 year of testing (30 megatons of fission plus fusion) is expected to cause in the world (stimated future number of births per year 5 times the present number) an estimated total of about 55,000 children with gross physical or mental defects, 170,000 stillbirths and childhood deaths, and 425,000 embryonic and neonatal deaths. (There is an unknown amount of overlap of these three categories.) These numbers are about 17 times the numbers usually estimated as the probable effects of the fallout fission products from 1 year of testing. In addition, the somatic effects of bomb-test carbon-14 are expected to be about equal to those of fission products, including strontium-90, with respect to leukemia and bone cancer and greater than those of fission products with respect to diseases resulting from radiation damage to tissues other than bone tissue and bone marrow. All of the estimated numbers are subject to great uncertainty; they may be as much as 5 times too high or 5 times too low. The uncertainty in the estimation of the relative effects of carbon-14 and fission products in world-wide fallout is not so great.