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RE: Nuclear weapons and human mutation

The following from Jaro Franta:

> From: "Franta, Jaroslav" <frantaj@aecl.ca>

> To: RadSafe <radsafe@list.vanderbilt.edu>

> Subject: RE: Nuclear weapons and human mutation

> Date: Thu, 28 Feb 2002 09:00:41 -0500



> Thanks Paul,


> ....there were some newspaper reports about this research a while back....

> see below.


> Also, there is some related material on the AFRRI web site at

> http://www.afrri.usuhs.mil/

> " Population Health in Regions Adjacent to the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test

> Site "

> Institute of Biophysics, Moscow, Russian Federation, Physical Technical

> Center, Sarov, Russian Federation


> Jaro



> Mutations from radiation passed on to children

> Joseph Brean, National Post

> Radioactive fallout from just four nuclear tests in the former Soviet


> caused a nearly two-fold increase in genetic mutations in the local

> population, an international team of scientists reports today in the


> Science.

> But a steady decrease in mutations since the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty,

> which prohibited nuclear tests above ground, under the sea and in space,

> demonstrates the strongest link yet between atmospheric radiation and

> genetic mutation, the team said.

> In the study of dozens of families living near the Semipalatinsk test site

> in the central Asian republic of Kazakhstan, the team found mutations


> sharply in the people who were directly exposed to nuclear fallout from


> blasts in the late 1940s to early 1960s.

> The children and grandchildren of those exposed also displayed higher than

> normal mutations in their minisatellite DNA -- short, repeated strings of

> "junk" DNA in between the structural genes -- but the rate had decreased

> with time, says Maj Hulten, a geneticist at the University of Leicester in

> England, who co-authored the paper.

> Forty years later, the mutation rate is nearly identical to that of a

> control group with similar ethnicity, occupation and such traits as


> and diet.

> Genetic mutation is the driving force behind evolution; tiny changes


> naturally in the genetic code every generation. But when mutation spirals

> out of control, it can cause damaging physiological effects or disease.

> The team's results do not suggest a link between the increased mutation


> and genetic disease or health effects, Dr. Hulten said. Finding

> radiation-induced health problems would be near-impossible, she said,


> most exposed people have since died.

> Finding Kazakh families in the desert region around Semipalatinsk to


> blood samples over three generations was "bloody difficult," Dr. Hulten

> said. This difficulty was compounded by widespread suspicion of


> Other research teams from Japan and the United States attempted similar

> studies, but without the same success.

> "They feel like guinea pigs ... they feel like they've suffered

> psychologically," said Maira Tankimanova, a post-doctoral student from the

> University of Alma Aty in Kazakhstan who collected the blood samples.

> "But when we explained that it might give some results, like asking the

> government to support these people ... they started to agree," she said.

> Dr. Hulten said her study is the first of its kind, largely because


> into the genetic effects of nuclear explosions is hampered by the

> politically delicate nature of the technology.

> Studies on Japanese families who survived the U.S. attacks on Japan failed

> to show the mutations noted by Dr. Hulten and her colleagues, but a

> controversial 1996 study on people living around the site of the Chernobyl

> disaster purportedly gave the first hint at inherited, radiation-induced

> genetic mutations. This study was criticized, though, because the

> researchers could not eliminate other factors in the grossly polluted

> region.

> Fallout from a U.S. test on the Bikini Atoll in the South Pacific has

> reportedly left downwind island residents suffering high rates of

> stillbirths, deformities and cancer.

> Independent testing of these health effects has been difficult, however,

> since it was only in the last decade that the U.S. declassified what it

> knows of the environmental and human effects of the testing. The U.S.

> carried out 67 bomb tests in the South Pacific Marshall Islands between


> and 1962, one of which was equal in force to 1000 Hiroshima-type bombs.



> Mutation rates high in vicinity of test site


> Friday, February 8, 2002 - Print Edition, Page A10

> People living near a nuclear weapons testing site used by the former


> Union have experienced high levels of genetic mutation and have passed


> of the damage on to their children, according to a new study.

> Until now, radiation from bombs and nuclear reactors has been feared


> because of its ability to cause cancer. But the new research, reported in

> the current issue of the journal Science, shows that genetic damage is


> a risk and that it can pass from from one generation to the next.

> The mutation rates were highest for those who lived around the test site


> Kazakhstan during four large, above-ground nuclear explosions in the late

> 1940s and '50s that showered radiation over the countryside. Mutation


> declined in those born after the United States and former Soviet Union

> signed a treaty in 1963 ending surface explosions of atomic weapons.

> The fallout "roughly doubled" the mutation rate in the population that

> experienced the above-ground tests, said Yuri Dubrova, a geneticist at the

> University of Leicester in England and the study's lead researcher.

> When the data came back "I couldn't believe my eyes," Mr. Dubrova said of

> his findings in the Science report.

> In the study, scientists looked at three generations of 40 different

> families who lived near the test site. Researchers compared a small


> of the DNA in their blood with that of a control group of 28 families in


> country that had not been exposed to the radiation.

> Individuals who experienced the worst fallout had an 80-per-cent increase


> their mutation rate, while rates among their children rose an average of


> per cent.

> Mr. Dubrova said the declining mutation rate in offspring is a sign that


> atmospheric test ban "has been effective in reducing genetic risk to the

> affected population."

> The Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, located in a desert region of

> Kazakhstan, was used for 470 nuclear tests between 1949 and 1989, the vast

> majority of them underground. It was the Soviet equivalent to the Nevada

> test site the United States used for similar purposes during the Cold War.

> In an interview, Mr. Dubrova said those exposed to radiation from the


> bomb experiments by the United States, Britain, and France might also have

> high mutation rates, but studies would be required to determine the extent

> of the damage caused by the blasts.

> Radiation is harmful because it exposes cells to sufficient energy to


> atoms in living tissue to take up electrical charges. These charged atoms

> can change the chemical composition of the tissue, leading to cancer and

> genetic damage.

> The researchers studied eight regions within human cells that are prone to

> mutations.

> Mr. Dubrova and other researchers say they do not know what these


> mean for the health of those who have had their genetic material altered.

> They also do not know exactly how much radiation the residents received


> the bomb tests.

> The new finding bolsters research Mr. Dubrova previously conducted that

> found DNA damage among children of men living in a part of Belarus heavily

> contaminated by radiation from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.



> Radiation mutations passed to kids

> MSNBC news service - Feb 7 - A STUDY APPEARING Friday in the journal



> gives compelling evidence that low-dose radiation from atomic bomb fallout

> can have

> long-term genetic effects, but it is not clear that there are any health

> consequences

> from these DNA changes, experts say. And the mutations faded out by the



> grandchildren were born, which suggests test ban treaties are doing their

> job in

> protecting future generations, the researchers reported. A group of



> researchers led by Yuri E. Dubrova of the University of Leicester took


> samples

> from 40 families in an area of Kazakstan not far from the Semipalatinsk


> where

> the former Soviet Union conducted atomic bomb tests. For a control group,

> the

> researchers took blood samples from 28 families in a geographically


> region of

> Kazakstan that had not been exposed to radiation from the tests. Members


> the

> study group and the control group were matched by year of birth,


> and

> ethnicity. The researchers then checked DNA of the two groups for evidence

> of

> mutations that could have been passed from one generation to another. In


> new

> study, Dubrovna said, they are finding that if you live in an environment

> that is

> contaminated where you are continuously exposed, then you start to see


> increases in mutations.




> All of the mutations were found in what is known as junk DNA, bits of

> genetic

> material that have no known function. These are mutations, but not in

> critical genes

> and there is not anything that we can correlate with a health effect, said

> Dr. William

> F. Morgan, director of the Radiation Oncology Research Laboratory at the

> University

> of Maryland, Baltimore. Morgan, who reviewed the study for Science, said



> findings give new understanding of how ionizing radiation, such as from an

> atomic

> bomb and its fallout, can affect successive generations. Most of what is

> known about

> such radiation effects comes from survivors of the atomic bombs dropped on

> Japan

> during World War II. Those survivors were exposed to a single, severe dose

> of

> radiation. No inherited mutations were found in that group, said Morgan.



> Morgan said the findings are consistent with animal studies that showed

> low-level,

> chronic exposure to radiation, such as from the fallout of bomb tests, can

> cause some

> genetic mutations that are passed to the next generation.

> Such mutations, he said, can be traced to radiation exposure affecting


> at a

> critical phase of its development. The mutations that pass to the next

> generation

> originate predominantly on the male side of reproduction, Morgan said. In



> earlier study, Dubrova found similar mutations among families exposed to

> fallout

> from the 1986 nuclear power plant accident at Chernobyl in the Ukraine.

> Deaths of

> about 8,000 people in the Ukraine, Russia and Belarus have been blamed on

> the

> incident, but another 200,000 are thought to live in areas still

> contaminated.

> Dubrova's Chernobyl study, published in Nature in 1996, found that


> of men

> living in the contaminated area of Belarus had about twice the number of

> mutations

> of a comparison group in Britain. Many researchers said that study was

> flawed. But

> Morgan said the new study in Kazakstan supports Dubrova's earlier




> <><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>



> -----Original Message-----

> From: Paul lavely [mailto:lavelyp@UCLINK4.BERKELEY.EDU]

> Sent: Wednesday February 27, 2002 4:59 PM

> To: RadSafe

> Subject: Nuclear weapons and human mutation


> Some of you may be interested in a Science article in the 6 Feb 2002

> issue page 1037, titled "Nuclear Weapons Tests and Human Germline

> Mutation Rate" by Yuri E. Dubrova et. al. of the Department of

> Genetics, University of Leicester in the UK.that concludes:


> "In conclusion, this study shows that the exposure to radioactive

> fallout from nuclear weapons tests carried out at the Semipalatinsk

> nuclear test site in the late 1940s and early 1950s roughly doubled

> germline mutations rate in the affected population." and "More

> importantly . . . provides experimental evidence for change in human

> germline mutation rate with declining exposure to ionizing radiation

> and therefore show that the Moscow treaty banning nuclear weapon

> tests in the atmosphere (August 1963) has been effective in reducing

> genetic risk to the affected population."



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