'Stillbirth Risk for Nuke Workers' Claim

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), October 22, 1999 | Go to article overview

'Stillbirth Risk for Nuke Workers' Claim


INCREASED exposure to radiation is associated with a greater chance of men working at the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant fathering stillborn children, new research has revealed.

The study found that as a group, babies of radiation workers were not especially likely to be stillborn. The risk for Sellafield radiation workers was very slightly less than that for Cumbrian fathers as a whole.

But a ''significant'' statistical association was seen between rising levels of radiation exposure and the risk of having a stillborn baby.

The stillborn risk increased as a father's exposure to radiation increased.

This was despite the fact that in absolute terms radiation workers had a stillbirth rate about half that of non-radiation workers.

Writing in the Lancet medical journal, the researchers, from the University of Newcastle, said: ''One possible explanation for our findings is that irradiation caused genetic damage to the father's germ (reproductive) cells.''

However, they acknowledged that other factors, such as whether the mother smoked, could not be completely excluded, and were cautious about drawing any conclusions regarding causality.

The study, led by Dr Louise Parker, was the largest investigation of trans-generational effects in a workforce exposed to radiation yet carried out.

The researchers found the association by comparing local birth registration and stillbirth records from 1950 to 1989 with a database of workers at the Cumbrian nuclear plant. …

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