Study: Nuclear Radiation May Affect Gender of Babies
May 29, 2011 12:17 PM
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Chernobyl nuclear facility
Researchers found that long-term nuclear radiation exposure led to either increased male births or decreased female births
Researchers from the
Helmholtz Zentrum München
have discovered that nuclear radiation exposure either causes a higher rate of male births or a decreased rate of female births.
There has been a lot of talk regarding nuclear radiation and its effects recently for obvious reasons. On March 11 of this year, a
struck Japan causing tsunamis and trouble for the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which recently suffered a
This tragic event has caused world leaders to reevaluate the use of nuclear power. For instance, French President Nicolas Sarkozy
called for a global nuclear review
after visiting Japan, and U.S. senators
demanded the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
to inspect the country's use of nuclear power.
On the other hand, nuclear power does
have its benefits
, such as clean, cheap and reliable power as an alternative energy source.
The advantages and disadvantages of nuclear power is a constant game of tug-o-war, but there's no argument that long-term nuclear radiation can have troubling effects on humans.
But in a new study led by Hagen Scherb and Kristina Voigt from the Helmholtz Zentrum München, exposure to nuclear radiation didn't necessarily have a harmful effect on humans, but rather an interesting impact on the gender of babies.
Scherb and Voigt studied those who live near nuclear facilities, as well as areas affected by radiation from the atomic bomb testing before the Partial Test Ban Treaty in 1963 and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. What they found was that the ratio of male to female births was biased in favor of male births by a noticeable amount.
In fact, they found that there was an increase in male births over female births in the U.S. and Europe from 1964 to 1975, which occurred immediately after the globally dispersed atmospheric atomic bomb test fallout prior to the ban in 1963. They also found a heightened amount of male births over female births in Europe in 1987, one year after the
. The U.S., which was not affected by the nuclear disaster, did not experience the same shift in male-dominated births.
In addition, the study found that those living within 22 miles of nuclear facilities in Germany and Switzerland had an increased birth rate of male babies over female babies.
Researchers believe these results were caused by ionizing radiation from nuclear activity, which possesses mutagenic characteristics and can negatively affect reproduction. It is believed that nuclear radiation causes men to "father more sons while mothers give birth to more girls." The researchers looked at the amount of paternal and maternal exposure and concluded that it may have effects on sex odds, but they're not sure if it increased the number of male births or decreased the number of female births. They also looked at sex odds with respect to normal pregnancy and adverse pregnancy outcomes in regards to maternal exposure and paternal exposure.
"Our result contribute to disproving the established and prevailing belief that radiation-induced
have yet to be detected in human populations," said the study's conclusion. "We find strong evidence of an enhanced impairment of humankind's genetic pool by artificial ionizing radiation."
was published in
Environmental Science and Pollution Research
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
The Radiation might actually be beneficial
5/30/2011 1:31:24 AM
It's interesting to note how the people in the study automatically assume that a sex shift is a result of negative consequences and that it implies bad things.
The average sex ratio of males to females at birth is about 105 male / 100 female. However males tend to have more health problems and by the age of about 1 year the ratio is about even.
This trend is true from conception also. At conception it's about 125 males/ 100 females. By 12 weeks it's diminished to 107.4 males / 100 females.
So radiation inducing a slight increase in the male sex ratio may mean that the male fetuses are on average healthier and more are surviving to birth.
Without studying the sex ratio of conceptions vs radiation it's not clear whether the sex shift is due to detrimental or positive effects. Nor whether the health of the children is impaired or improved.
There are a number of case studies indicating that low level radiation can actually reduced cancer and birth defect rates.
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