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RE: Nuclear weapons and human mutation
The following from Jaro Franta:
> From: "Franta, Jaroslav" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> To: RadSafe <email@example.com>
> 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
> " Population Health in Regions Adjacent to the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test
> Site "
> Institute of Biophysics, Moscow, Russian Federation, Physical Technical
> Center, Sarov, Russian Federation
> 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
> 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
> 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
> By MARTIN MITTELSTAEDT, ENVIRONMENT REPORTER
> 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
> 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
> 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
> from 40 families in an area of Kazakstan not far from the Semipalatinsk
> the former Soviet Union conducted atomic bomb tests. For a control group,
> researchers took blood samples from 28 families in a geographically
> region of
> Kazakstan that had not been exposed to radiation from the tests. Members
> study group and the control group were matched by year of birth,
> ethnicity. The researchers then checked DNA of the two groups for evidence
> mutations that could have been passed from one generation to another. In
> 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.
> THE NEXT GENERATION
> All of the mutations were found in what is known as junk DNA, bits of
> 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
> of Maryland, Baltimore. Morgan, who reviewed the study for Science, said
> findings give new understanding of how ionizing radiation, such as from an
> 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
> during World War II. Those survivors were exposed to a single, severe dose
> radiation. No inherited mutations were found in that group, said Morgan.
> CONSISTENT WITH ANIMAL STUDIES
> Morgan said the findings are consistent with animal studies that showed
> 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
> originate predominantly on the male side of reproduction, Morgan said. In
> earlier study, Dubrova found similar mutations among families exposed to
> 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
> incident, but another 200,000 are thought to live in areas still
> 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
> 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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