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J Radiat Res. 1991 Mar;32 Suppl:249-64.

A review of forty-five years study of Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb survivors. Brain damage among the prenatally exposed.

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Epidemiology Research Center, School of Public Health, University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston.


Significant effects on the developing brain of exposure to ionizing radiation are seen among those individuals exposed in the 8th through the 25th week after fertilization. These effects, particularly in the most sensitive period, 8-15 weeks after fertilization, manifest themselves as an increased frequency of severe mental retardation (SMR), a diminution in IQ score and in school performance, and an increase in the occurrence of seizures. Of 30 SMR cases, 18 (60%) had small heads. About 10% of the individuals with small head sizes observed among the in utero clinical sample were mentally retarded. When all of the cases of mental retardation are included in the analysis, a linear dose-response model fits the data adequately and no evidence of a threshold emerges; however, if the two probable nonradiation-related cases of Down's syndrome are excluded from the 19 SMR cases exposed 8-15 weeks after fertilization, the evidence of a threshold is stronger. The 95% lower bound of the threshold based on the new dosimetry system appears to be in the range of 0.12-0.23 Gy. In the 16-25 week period, the 95% lower bound of the threshold is 0.21 Gy both with and without inclusion of two probable nonradiation-related retarded cases. In a regression analysis of IQ scores and school performance data, a greater linearity is suggested with the new dosimetry (DS86) than with the old (T65DR), but the mean IQ score and the mean school performance of those exposed in utero to doses under 0.10 Gy are similar, and not statistically different from the means in the control group. The risk ratios for unprovoked seizures, following exposure during the 8th through the 15th week after fertilization, are 4.4 (90% confidence interval: 0.5-40.9) after 0.10-0.49 Gy and 24.9 (4.1-191.6) after 0.50 Gy or more when the mentally retarded are included and 4.4 (0.5-40.9) and 14.5 (0.4-199.6), respectively, when they are excluded.

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