27 May 2011

Radiation exposure impacting gender ratio

by Kate Melville

Analyzing data from population centers around normally functioning nuclear power stations, German researchers have found an increased percentage of male births.

The researchers, Hagen Scherb and Kristina Voigt, from Helmholtz Zentrum in Munich, also looked at data from countries exposed to radiation from the Chernobyl accident. The findings appear in Environmental Science and Pollution Research.

Scherb and Voigt's work shows a significant gender gap correlating with nuclear radiation exposure:

Scherb says that taken together, these findings show a long-term, dose-dependent impact of radiation exposure on human sex odds, proving cause and effect. What is less clear is whether this increase in male births relative to female births is the result of a reduced frequency of female births or an increased number of male births.

"Our results contribute to disproving the established and prevailing belief that radiation-induced hereditary effects have yet to be detected in human populations. We find strong evidence of an enhanced impairment of humankind's genetic pool by artificial ionizing radiation," the study concludes.

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Source: Environmental Science and Pollution Research