Radiation damage from Chernobyl “doesn’t reach children”

Children of Narodichi Kindergarten in Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

This study is the first to demonstrate that radiation-induced DNA damage is “not passed on to future children.”

Children born to parents who were exposed to radiation from the Chernobyl accident before pregnancy do not have “additional DNA damage.”

This is due to the first study that screened the genes of children in which parents participated to help clean up after the nuclear accident.

All participants were devised after the disaster, born between 1987 and 2002, and screened the entire genome.

No mutations associated with parental exposure were found in this study.

The findings are published in the journal Science.

Professor Jerry Thomas of Imperial College London has spent decades studying the biology of cancer, especially tumors associated with radiation damage. She showed that this new study “did not affect future children, whether people were exposed to relatively high doses of radiation or compared to background radiation.” I explained that.

The new study was led by Professor Meredith Jaeger of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Maryland. It is the children of workers who participated to help clean up the highly polluted zone around the nuclear power plant, and the children of refugees from the abandoned town of Pripyat, and within the 70km zone around it. Focused on other villages.

Dr. Stephen Channock, also one of NCI’s principal investigators, explained that the research team recruited the entire family so scientists could compare the DNA of mothers, fathers, and children.

“I haven’t seen what happened to the kids here. [in the womb] At the time of the accident; we are seeing what is called a de novo mutation. “

These are new mutations in DNA that occur randomly in an egg or sperm cell. Depending on where the mutation occurs in the baby’s genetic blueprint, it has no effect or can cause a genetic disorder.


50,000 people lived in Pripyat before the accident

“There are about 50-100 of these mutations per generation, and they are random,” explained Dr. Chanock. “In a sense, they are components of evolution. This is how one birth at a time introduces new changes into the population.

“We examined the genomes of the mother and father, then the child, and spent another nine months looking for signals (the number of these mutations) associated with radiation exposure of the parents. . “Find something. “

This means that, scientists say, the effects of radiation on the parent’s body do not affect the children they will become pregnant in the future.

“Many people were afraid to have children after the atomic bombing. [in Nagasaki and Hiroshima]Professor Thomas told BBC News. “And those who were afraid to have children after the accident in Fukushima thought their children would be affected by the radiation they were exposed to.

“It’s very sad, and hopefully you can alleviate that fear if you can show that it doesn’t work.”

Self-settlers in the Chernobyl off-limits area

Some older “settlers” still live in abandoned exclusion zones

Professor Thomas was not involved in genomic research. She and her colleagues conducted another study on cancers associated with Chernobyl. They studied thyroid cancer. This is because the nuclear accident is known to have caused about 5,000 cases of that particular cancer, most of which have been treated and cured.

Authorities at the time of the accident were unable to prevent contaminated milk from being sold in the area. Many children at the time drank it and received large amounts of radioactive iodine. This is one of the pollutants blown from a damaged reactor.

“In essence, we found that there was no difference between Chernobyl radiation-induced thyroid cancer and other thyroid cancers,” explained Professor Thomas.

“Therefore, there is no irreparable” devil’s tumor “from Chernobyl. It can be treated in exactly the same way as any other case. “

Chernobyl nuclear power plant

An area of ​​4,000 square kilometers has been abandoned since the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant