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Environmental Health

, 12:63

First Online: 15 August 2013Received: 26 February 2013Accepted: 14 August 2013DOI: 10.1186-1476-069X-12-63

Cite this article as: Scherb, H., Kusmierz, R. & Voigt, K. Environ Health 2013 12: 63. doi:10.1186-1476-069X-12-63


BackgroundThe ratio of male to female offspring at birth may be a simple and non-invasive way to monitor the reproductive health of a population. Except in societies where selective abortion skews the sex ratio, approximately 105 boys are born for every 100 girls. Generally, the human sex ratio at birth is remarkably constant in large populations. After the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident in April 1986, a long lasting significant elevation in the sex ratio has been found in Russia, i.e. more boys or fewer girls compared to expectation were born. Recently, also for Cuba an escalated sex ratio from 1987 onward has been documented and discussed in the scientific literature.

Presentation of the hypothesisBy the end of the eighties of the last century in Cuba as much as about 60% of the food imports were provided by the former Soviet Union. Due to its difficult economic situation, Cuba had neither the necessary insight nor the political strength to circumvent the detrimental genetic effects of imported radioactively contaminated foodstuffs after Chernobyl. We propose that the long term stable sex ratio increase in Cuba is essentially due to ionizing radiation.

Testing of the hypothesisA synoptic trend analysis of Russian and Cuban annual sex ratios discloses upward jumps in 1987. The estimated jump height from 1986 to 1987 in Russia measures 0.51% with a 95% confidence interval 0.28, 0.75, p value < 0.0001. In Cuba the estimated jump height measures 2.99% 2.39, 3.60, p value < 0.0001. The hypothesis may be tested by reconstruction of imports from the world markets to Cuba and by radiological analyses of remains in Cuba for Cs-137 and Sr-90.

Implications of the hypothesisIf the evidence for the hypothesis is strengthened, there is potential to learn about genetic radiation risks and to prevent similar effects in present and future exposure situations.

KeywordsFood contamination Food export import Human secondary sex ratio Radiation induced genetic effects Radioactive fallout AbbreviationsChNPPChernobyl Nuclear Power Plant

COMECONCouncil for Mutual Economic Assistance

CONASUPOCompañía Nacional de Subsistencias Populares


cSv1-100 sievert

FAOFood and Agriculture Organization

GDPGross domestic product


UNSCEARUnited Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation

USSRUnion of Soviet Socialist Republics

XX chromosome

YY chromosome.

Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-1476-069X-12-63 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Autor: Hagen Scherb - Ralf Kusmierz - Kristina Voigt


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