A REVIEW OF HUMAN RADIATION GENETICS FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF RADITION PROTECTION
A. NAGARATNAM *
Emeritus Scientist, Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory, Khanchanbagh, Hyderabad 500 258
*Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Although Haldane's name is not generally associated with the mainstream of advances in human radiation genetics, he made many seminal indirect contributions to this field.
In view of potential exposures to radiation of large sections of the human population from the peaceful applications of atomic energy and from nuclear weapons fallout, several organizations like UNSCEAR, BEIR and ICRP have been taking a continuing interest in the field of biological (including genetic) effects of radiation.
The main part of this paper discusses the current status of radiation genetics. In the absence of unequivocal evidence on the genetic effects of radiation on humans, we have to extrapolate from animal data. The two methods of risk estimation, viz., the doubling dose and the direct methods, are described. If the gonads of the reproductive population are subjected to a doubling dose, generation after generation (currently estimated to be 1 Sv for low dose rate irradiation), the incidence of genetically determined diseases and disabilities will ultimately double.
Part II deals with a subject of current controversy, viz., the reported incidence of "leukaemia clusters" in children near nuclear installations in UK and a possible genetic component for it.
Part III touches upon the still widely prevalent custom of consanguineous marriages in our country and its potential implications in the evaluation of genetic radiation hazards.