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Health Phys. 1990 Jul;59(1):57-61.

Effects of prenatal exposure to ionizing radiation.

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Clinical Epidemiology Branch, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD 20892.


Prenatal exposure to ionizing radiation induces some effects that are seen at birth and others that cannot be detected until later in life. Data from A-bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki show a diminished number of births after exposure under 4 wk of gestational age. Although a wide array of congenital malformations has been found in animal experimentation after such exposure to x rays, in humans only small head size (exposure at 4-17 wk) and mental retardation (exposure primarily at 8-15 wk) have been observed. In Hiroshima, small head size occurred after doses of 0.10-0.19 Gy or more, and an excess of mental retardation at 0.2-0.4 Gy or more. Intelligence test scores were reduced among A-bomb survivors exposed at 8-15 wk of gestational age by 21-29 IQ points per Gy. Other effects of in-utero exposure to atomic radiation include long-lasting complex chromosome abnormalities.

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