Genetic effects of the atomic bombs: a reappraisal

+ See all authors and affiliations

Science  11 Sep 1981:
Vol. 213, Issue 4513, pp. 1220-1227
DOI: 10.1126/science.7268429


Data are presented on four indicators of genetic effects from studies of children born to survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The indicators are frequency of untoward pregnancy outcomes (stillbirth, major congenital defect, death during the first postnatal weak); occurrence of death in live-born children, through an average of life expectancy of 17 years; frequency of children with sex chromosome aneuploidy; and frequency of children with mutation resulting in an eletrophoretic variant. In no instance is there a statistically significant effect of parental exposure; but for all indicators the observed effect is in the direction suggested by the hypothesis that genetic damage resulted from the exposure. On the basis of assumptions concerning the contribution that spontaneous mutation in the preceding generation makes to the indicators in question, it is possible to estimate the genetic doubling dose for radiation for the first three indicators (the data base is still too small for the fourth). The average of these estimates is 156 rems. This is some four times higher than the results from experimental studies on the mouse with comparable radiation sources, which have been the principal guide to the presumed human sensitivities. The relevance of these data in setting permissible limits for human exposures is discussed briefly.