Genetic Effects of Radiation: Myth of double-headed monsters

Genetic Effects of Radiation:  Myth of double-headed monsters 

Nearly 30% of scientists attending a specialists’ college at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics at Triesta, Italy in 1990 believed in the myth that double headed monsters were born to A-bomb survivors at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

While responding to a questionnaire from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) on Electrical Energy and Environment, over 80 percent of the participants from reputed academic and research institutions stated that they believe that genetic effects of radiation was the major effect seen in the children of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki contrary to the scientific fact. Many journalists also entertain wrong impressions on genetic effects.

 In 1991, Shri Karan Thapar interviewed me on his “Eye Witness” video magazine programme. He asked me 40 questions in ten minutes! In the ensuing controversy, I stated the well known scientific fact that thousands of children born to the atomic bomb survivors at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. did not suffer from genetic effects.

Shri Thapar unhesitatingly contested my statement as “inexplicable”. “Where did Dr. Parthasarathy form the impression that no genetic effects were found among the thousands of children of Hiroshima and Nagasaki” he countered. “The opposite is not just a fact, it is the truth”, he asserted.

I found that many technologists, social scientists, physicists and other highly qualified experts also believe in this scientifically unsupported conviction.

Scientists have studied the health statistics of the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki over the past several decades. The Radiation Research Foundation, Japan continues this analysis to date. The most authentic reports on the study came from the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR). Since 1955, this Committee brought out several reports.

UNSCEAR stated thus in, the 1988 report: “The Committee wishes to stress that there are still no direct data in man on the induction by radiation of hereditary diseases.”

In        1927, Hermann Mueller discovered that high radiation doses to male fruit-flies could induce abnormalities in their progeny. Later studies confirmed such effects at very low doses also. Since scientists found that radiation is mutagenic in all organisms studied so far, we prudently assume that human beings are not exempt from these effects.

The Committee on Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation of the US National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Biological Effects of radiation (BEIR) stated that in regard to the induction of mutations, the greater risk seems to result from exposure to chemical mutagens in the environment rather than fro exposure of populations to radiation.

In spite of all the information available, many consider that radiation is more hazardous than toxic chemicals. Specialists have established the carcinogenic, Teratogenic and mutagenic potential of some of the chemicals.

 

While we should take care in handling radioactive materials, it is unscientific to give any special status to radiation as a harmful agent.


 

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About ksparthasarathy

I am a former Secretary of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. I am a former Raja Ramanna Fellow in the Department of Atomic Energy. Free lance journalism is my hobby
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