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Human Mutation Rates Tied to Weapons Tests

New research from the University of Leicester Department of Genetics and international collaborators has uncovered alarming information concerning the impact of nuclear tests on people.

Exposure to radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons testing in the late 1940s and early 1950s roughly doubled inheritable mutation rates in the Kazakhstan population living near the test site, according to a study conducted by the international research team.

People living around the Semipalatinsk test site received the bulk of their exposure from four surface explosions carried out between 1949 and 1956.

Yuri E Dubrova and colleagues collected blood samples from three generations of the Semipalatinsk population, uncovering a 1.8-fold increase in the germline mutation rate for the first generation exposed to the surface blasts. Mutation rates show a steady decline after the 1950s, however, and the authors suggest that the ban on surface nuclear testing after 1963 "has been effective in reducing genetic risk to the population."

February 2002

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Last updated: 13 February 2002 10:55
Created by: Rachel Tunstall

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