Links with Stillbirths"
Cumbria, 26 October 1999
Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (CORE)
CORE BRIEFING No: 20/99 Date: 26.10.99
Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment
98 Church St, Barrow, Cumbria LA14 2HJ.
Tel 01229 833851.
Fax 01229 812239
A study on stillbirths among offspring of male
radiation workers at Sellafield was published in The Lancet on Friday
22nd October 1999 *. The study, part of a larger programme of work investigating
the health of the children of the Sellafield workforce, set out to find
whether there was evidence of an association between stillbirth risk
and paternal exposure to ionising radiation.
As reported in the Lancet, the study found that
" a significant positive asscoiation was found between the risk of a
baby being stillborn and the father's total exposure to external ionising
radiation before conception. The risk was higher for stillbirths with
congenital anomaly and was highest for the nine stillbirths with neural-tube
study, the largest and most comprehensive investigation of transgenerational
effects in any workforce occupationally exposed to ionising radiation,
was undertaken by the Departments of Child Health and Statistics at
Newcastle University and partly funded by BNFL. The researchers studied
the birth documents of 248097 livebirths and 3715 stillbirths registered
in Cumbria between 1950 and 1989, and identified 9078 livebirths and
130 stillbirths to wives and partners of male radiation workers at Sellafield.
Preconceptional radiation doses to Sellafield fathers were estimated
from annual external dose summaries, including film badge records, and
from routine (urinary) internal dose assessments. Doses in the 90 days
before conception were estimated pro-rata from annual dose summaries.
The study found there was a significant positive association up to
3 times - between both the annual and 90-day doses and stillbirth risk.
the small numbers of stillbirths involved, the authors point out that
the adjusted odds ratio per 100 mSv was significantly raised for all
stillbirths after 1961 for which cause of death was available. For the
15 stillbirths with congenital anomaly (9 neural-tube defects, 3 hydrocephalus,
1 Down's syndrome, 1 multiple anomaly, 1 trisomy not otherwise specified)
and, within this category, for those with neural-tube defects (8 anencephalic,
1 spina bifida), the odds ratio was significantly raised. In the discussion
section of the study, the authors state that " stillbirth risk was significantly
associated with total external paternal preconceptional irradiation
in both the cohort and case-control studies ", that " one possible explanation
of our findings is that irradiation caused genetic damage to the father's
germ cells ". The authors could find no association with internal radiation
dose or to any individual radionuclide. The study showed a reduction
in stillbirth rate from 25.9 per 1000 between 1950-1959, and 6.2 per
1000 between 1980-1989.
In their response to the study, BNFL have assured the Sellafield workforce
(previously briefed by the study's authors on 15th October) that the
stillbirths study was absolutely no cause for concern. Admitting to
the statistical association between total radiation exposure and stillbirth
rate, the Company draws on the authors presentation to the workforce
that no one should change any plans for having a family and that there
was no (causal) proof that radiation had played a part in the statistical
association found. As confirmation of the Company's view, BNFL had solicited
supporting statements from world experts"(some of whom have close links
to BNFL either as court witnesses or having received research funding
in the past). In a summary of their own views, and those of the experts,
that radiation was not to blame, BNFL point out that stillbirths are
overwhelmingly caused by factors associated with the mother, including
age, diet and level of smoking.
* Stillbirths among offspring of male radiation workers at Sellafield
nuclear reprocessing plant Louise Parker, Mark.S. Pearce, Heather O
Dickinson, , Murray Aitken, Alan W Craft. Lancet Vol 354, No 9188, Article