Changes in registered congenital anomalies in the Republic of Belarus after the Chernobyl accident

Stem Cells. 1997:15 Suppl 2:255-60. doi: 10.1002/stem.5530150734.


A descriptive analysis of birth defects and malformations was performed to assess whether the rates of these defects correlate with the geographic areas of Belarus that received different levels of 137Cs contamination resulting from the Chernobyl catastrophe. Since this accident in 1986, the frequency of both congenital and fetal abnormalities in the Republic of Belarus has apparently increased. This increase is most prominent in areas with at least 555 9Bq/m2 radioactive contamination, although it has not been possible to correlate the individual dose received by a pregnant woman with the incidence of congenital malformations. The types of anomalies that were most increased in frequency were multiple congenital malformations, polydactyly, and reduction limb defects. These malformations are commonly associated with dominant new mutations. Chromosomal disorders such as occur in Down syndrome were not increased in frequency, nor could teratogenic effects be attributed to exposure to ionizing radiation. Preventive measures have apparently reduced the number of births with congenital abnormalities but have had no apparent effect on the frequency of fetal defects. Results of our analysis are consistent with the hypothesis that ionizing radiation released during the Chernobyl accident may have placed fetuses and neonates at risk for congenital malformations. Epidemiological studies are now required to determine whether a mother's radiation dose correlates with congenital malformations in her children.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Radiation-Induced / classification
  • Abnormalities, Radiation-Induced / embryology
  • Abnormalities, Radiation-Induced / epidemiology*
  • Abortion, Legal / statistics & numerical data
  • Cesium Radioisotopes
  • Congenital Abnormalities / classification
  • Congenital Abnormalities / embryology
  • Congenital Abnormalities / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Power Plants*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Radioactive Fallout
  • Radioactive Hazard Release*
  • Registries
  • Republic of Belarus / epidemiology
  • Ukraine


  • Cesium Radioisotopes
  • Radioactive Fallout