Children of Chernobyl cleaners at risk
- By: Siân Knight
Children of the people who cleaned up the Chernobyl reactor after a core meltdown in 1986 (liquidators) are 600% more likely to have a genetic mutation compared with siblings born before the nuclear accident, according to research published by the Royal Society last month (Prac R Soc Lond 2001;268:1001-5).
DNA analysis of children whose fathers were involved in the clean up operation showed a sevenfold increase in brand new point mutations compared with the children of men unaffected by radiation. Children who were born to the same men before their involvement in the Chernobyl incident were used as internal controls and showed the same levels of mutation as those born in uncontaminated regions of the Ukraine.
Until now, it has not been shown that exposure to low dose radiation causes inheritable changes in germ cells, as large sample sizes are needed and widespread radiation exposure is rare. This demonstration of