skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: New approaches to evaluating the genetic effects of the atomic bombs

Abstract

In the aftermath of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki fifty years ago, one of the compelling biomedical questions that arose concerned the genetic effects of this exposure. More recently, revelations of the extent of industrial or accidental exposures in the former Soviet Union and charges that employment in the Sellafield Nuclear Reprocessing Plant in West Cumbria, England has resulted in a gene-mediated increase in children of plant employees have served to keep in the public mind the issue of the genetic risks of exposure to ionizing radiation. The study of the genetic effects of the atomic bombs has moved from the gross morphological level of congenital malformations to the examination of DNA. However, were the need for such genetic studies to arise in the foreseeable future, despite this impressive progress in DNA-oriented systems, the documentation of congenital defect, genetic disease and child survival would still be an essential component of any future study. Whatever the geneticists may think, the phenotypic well-being and survival of children are still the primary indicators on which the public, who ultimately supports these studies, will base its judgement of risk. 28 refs.

Authors:
 [1]
  1. Univ. of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
186195
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: American Journal of Human Genetics; Journal Volume: 57; Journal Issue: 6; Other Information: PBD: Dec 1995
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
56 BIOLOGY AND MEDICINE, APPLIED STUDIES; 55 BIOLOGY AND MEDICINE, BASIC STUDIES; HUMAN POPULATIONS; GENETIC RADIATION EFFECTS; BIOLOGICAL RADIATION EFFECTS; CONGENITAL MALFORMATIONS; HEREDITARY DISEASES; LEUKEMIA; OCCUPATIONAL EXPOSURE; PROGENY; PHENOTYPE; MORTALITY; GENES; GENE MUTATIONS; IONIZING RADIATIONS; DNA HYBRIDIZATION; ELECTROPHORESIS; SURVIVAL CURVES; A-BOMB SURVIVORS; RADIATION DOSES

Citation Formats

Neel, J.V. New approaches to evaluating the genetic effects of the atomic bombs. United States: N. p., 1995. Web.
Neel, J.V. New approaches to evaluating the genetic effects of the atomic bombs. United States.
Neel, J.V. 1995. "New approaches to evaluating the genetic effects of the atomic bombs". United States. doi:.
@article{osti_186195,
title = {New approaches to evaluating the genetic effects of the atomic bombs},
author = {Neel, J.V.},
abstractNote = {In the aftermath of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki fifty years ago, one of the compelling biomedical questions that arose concerned the genetic effects of this exposure. More recently, revelations of the extent of industrial or accidental exposures in the former Soviet Union and charges that employment in the Sellafield Nuclear Reprocessing Plant in West Cumbria, England has resulted in a gene-mediated increase in children of plant employees have served to keep in the public mind the issue of the genetic risks of exposure to ionizing radiation. The study of the genetic effects of the atomic bombs has moved from the gross morphological level of congenital malformations to the examination of DNA. However, were the need for such genetic studies to arise in the foreseeable future, despite this impressive progress in DNA-oriented systems, the documentation of congenital defect, genetic disease and child survival would still be an essential component of any future study. Whatever the geneticists may think, the phenotypic well-being and survival of children are still the primary indicators on which the public, who ultimately supports these studies, will base its judgement of risk. 28 refs.},
doi = {},
journal = {American Journal of Human Genetics},
number = 6,
volume = 57,
place = {United States},
year = 1995,
month =
}
  • Methods are outlined that were used in the statistical analysis of data resulting from genetic studies on the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the existence of a correlation between the radiation history of parents and certain indicators of possible genetic damage to their children. Problems in obtaining accurate information on human populations are discussed. (C.H.)
  • 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 bymore » 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.« less
  • Data are presented on four indicators of genetic effects from studies of children born to survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Negasaki. The indicators are frequency of un toward pregnancy outcomes (stillbirth, major congenital defect, death during first postnatal week); occurrence of death in live-born children, through an average life expectancy of 17 years; frequency of children with sex chromosome aneuploidy; and frequency of children with mutation resulting in an electrophoretic 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 themore » 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.« less
  • The data collected in Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the past 40 years on the children of survivors of the atomic bombings and on the children of a suitable control population are analyzed on the basis of the newly revised estimates of radiation doses. No statistically significant effects emerge with respect to eight different indicators. Since, however, it may confidently be assumed some mutations were induced, we have taken the data at face value and calculated the minimal gametic doubling doses of acute radiation for the individual indicators at various probability levels. An effort has also been made to calculate themore » most probable doubling dose for the indicators combined. The latter value is between 1.7 and 2.2 Sv. It is suggested the appropriate figure for chronic radiation would be between 3.4 and 4.5 Sv. These estimates suggest humans are less sensitive to the genetic effects of radiation than has been assumed on the basis of past extrapolations from experiments with mice.« less