Letter: Fall-out from Hiroshima

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The Independent Online
Sir: Richard Lloyd Parry ("The day the world changed", 4 August) reports a "widespread belief" among the victims of the Hiroshima bombing and their relatives "that genetic defects caused by radiation would be visited on the second generation." However, he adds, no evidence for this belief has emerged "in 50 years of tests and observation".

Yet this conclusion cannot be regarded as definitive. The US National Academy of Sciences report (1980) on the biological effects of radiation estimates that "irregularly inherited genetic changes" would persist for ten generations. The foremost authority on the subject, Professor Joseph Rotblat, writes:

Global fall-out [from a major nuclear war] would result in long-term damage in all countries; it would be expressed in an increased incidence of cancers and of genetic defects in future generations. ... Not only the inhabitants of the combatant countries, but virtually the whole population of the world, and their descendants, would be victims of a nuclear war. (Nuclear Radiation in Warfare, SIPRI 1981, p. 149, last emphasis added).

Yours sincerely,

Peter Lomas

St Andrews, Fife

5 August