(Japan) Radiation and Pregnancy

David Leonhardt  –  The New York Times – Monday, 14 March, 2011

Earthquake tsunami damage northern Japan
The infrastructure in northern Japan was damaged by the earthquake and tsunami, as at this petroleum refining plant. Image: Kimimasa Mayama/European Pressphoto Agency for the NYTimes

Douglas Almond, a Columbia University economist who has studied the effects of the Chernobyl disaster, is concerned that the Japanese government may not be doing enough to warn pregnant women to leave any areas at risk of radiation exposure. Those areas can be much farther from the nuclear plants than many people realize.

Mr. Almond, in an e-mail, explains:

The fetus may be particularly sensitive to low doses of ionizing radiation, a susceptibility that current public health responses in Japan seem to have overlooked. Evidence comes from a recent study of Chernobyl fallout in Sweden, which experienced comparatively low radiation doses from the accident; indeed radiation levels in Sweden were believed safe at the time.

While this has been largely confirmed in subsequent studies, there is one important exception: children in utero at the time of the accident. . .

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