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Women of child-bearing age are safer to not work in the nuclear industry

John Urquhart 19th July 2018 Miscarriages and their causes are rarely discussed in public but for many women they are an unfortunate fact of life. To be more precise; for every 10,000 pregnancies, an estimated 3,000 end with a miscarriage. Very few people know that a significant proportion of these miscarriages is due to chromosome aberrations in the foetus, particularly Down Syndrome.

Boué examined 1,500 foetuses that had naturally aborted. He found that 38% had Down Syndrome. So on that basis, for every 10,000 pregnancies, 1,114 miscarriages occur due to a Down Syndrome condition in the foetus. On the other hand, the actual number of children born with Down Syndrome is less than 10 in 10,000.

Even allowing for therapeutic abortions, this implies that 99% of all foetuses with Down Syndrome are eliminated before reaching full term. A very comprehensive quality control system that must have developed over thousands of years through natural selection.

The very high number of foetuses that start with Down Syndrome would suggest there is some omnipresent environmental factor to which humans are very sensitive.

The Down Syndrome condition, along with other chromosome aberrations, together account for 50% of all natural miscarriages. The aberrations arise when genes on the chromosomes translocate and this is a form of genomic instability. We now know that one source of such instability is radiation. Could natural background radiation be a major cause of the Down Syndrome condition?

We know that radiation levels can vary significantly at times. Gamma monitoring by the independent Argus Network over the last thirty years reveals that, under certain conditions, washout of radionuclides occurs which significantly increases radiation levels. A dramatic illustration of this phenomenon occurred several years ago when workers outside the Berkeley nuclear power station were caught in a rainstorm outside the plant and subsequently triggered radiation monitors on their way in! It was found that their clothes were covered with short-lived, naturally-occurring radionuclides including alpha and beta particles, which when breathed in, can penetrate deep into the body.

So, is natural background radiation a major source of miscarriages in women? Hardly any research has been done in this area, particularly as miscarriages are not a notifiable condition and records are hardly ever kept. So, it is necessary to concentrate purely on the relationship between radiation and Down Syndrome.

In 1972, Eva Alberman reported research findings which showed that exposure to x-rays of mothers to be increased the likelihood of giving birth to a Down Syndrome child, but only at least six years after exposure.

What happened when all mothers to be in Britain were exposed to an unexpected bout of radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear accident in early May 1986? Three large radioactive plumes from the accident swept south to north over the country and where they were intercepted by rain showers, significant amounts of radioactive debris were deposited. One such area was Wales, which it is generally agreed, had significantly higher levels of fallout.

official figures for Down Syndrome comparing England and Wales between 1983 and 2004. In exactly six years after the Chernobyl nuclear accident, Down Syndrome levels in Wales, which previously had matched those in England, increased by about 45% over their English counterparts. This six-year delay effect exactly mirrors the findings of Eva Alberman.

What about other parts of Europe? In “Welcome to Geordiestan”   there are detailed facts and discussions of the health impact of the Chernobyl nuclear accident (see details below).

 The annual birth defect rates in Belarus, which was heavily contaminated by fallout from Chernobyl: in the most contaminated area, there was a significant jump in birth defects in 1987 and 1988, which could have been caused by exposure of male sperm to radioactive fallout. Levels then return almost to normal but in Belarus as a whole, six years after the Chernobyl nuclear accident the birth defect rate rose to four times the rate before the accident and continued to climb. The  impact on the offspring due to parental exposure could be at least ten times higher via women than via men. Once again, there appears to be a six-year effect. These figures cover not only children born with Down Syndrome but all types of birth defects. One of the possible effects of genomic instability is to generate extramutated genes which interact with existing recessive deleterious genes thus bumping up the rate of birth defects.

Clearly, there are many unresolved questions about the impact of radiation on the human female egg but the results from Wales and Belarus suggest that, not only very low levels of man-made radiation may have an effect, but that its genetic consequences are much higher in women than in men.

Yet in the absence of any kind of research into the impact of Chernobyl and other low level radiation sources, the British government has recently announced their goal of increasing the percentage of women working in the nuclear industry to 40%. Could this have the effect of importing a genetic trojan horse into the British nation? Animal studies conducted before and after the Chernobyl nuclear accident show transgenerational effects due to radiation. Ryabokon et al. (2006) showed that, in colonies of bank voles, these effects not only persisted but increased over twenty-two generations.

Genomic instability does not stop at one generation. So women of child-bearing age should seriously consider whether to work in the nuclear industry. Not only for their own sake, but for the sake of their descendants.

Welcome to Geordiestan Published by zencity 2018 ISBN: 978-1-5272-2499-5 UK: £8.99 Now available from bookshops and libraries.  For further information email zencity@environment.org.uk
 https://mailchi.mp/e74aa2226ba8/the-welsh-connection-318619?e=4dc677fb95

 

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July 23, 2018 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, women

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