Lack of transgenerational effects of ionizing radiation exposure from the Chernobyl accident

Science. 2021 May 14;372(6543):725-729. doi: 10.1126/science.abg2365. Epub 2021 Apr 22.


Effects of radiation exposure from the Chernobyl nuclear accident remain a topic of interest. We investigated germline de novo mutations (DNMs) in children born to parents employed as cleanup workers or exposed to occupational and environmental ionizing radiation after the accident. Whole-genome sequencing of 130 children (born 1987-2002) and their parents did not reveal an increase in the rates, distributions, or types of DNMs relative to the results of previous studies. We find no elevation in total DNMs, regardless of cumulative preconception gonadal paternal [mean = 365 milligrays (mGy), range = 0 to 4080 mGy] or maternal (mean = 19 mGy, range = 0 to 550 mGy) exposure to ionizing radiation. Thus, we conclude that, over this exposure range, evidence is lacking for a substantial effect on germline DNMs in humans, suggesting minimal impact from transgenerational genetic effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.