Task Group 121
Effects of Ionising Radiation Exposure in Offspring and Next Generations

A Task Group under Committee 1

The objectives of the Task Group are:

  • to update the review of the scientific literature related to radiation-induced effects for the offspring of individuals exposed to ionising radiation, for both human and non-human species. The review will have two major parts:
    • preconceptional effects due to the exposure of parents: hereditary and transgenerational effects (addressing genetic and epigenetic mechanisms and their contribution to diseases) and effects on fertility and fecundity; and,
    • postconceptional effects of radiation due to the exposure of the embryo and fetus addressing developmental (teratogenic) effects and carcinogenesis.
    • to discuss separately preconceptional and postconceptional effects of radiation and related morbidity and mortality
  • to provide advice about the level of evidence and consideration of these effects in the system of radiological protection for humans and non-human biota.

The potential for radiation-related deleterious effects in offspring is a recurrent issue for the general public and a major concern for parents exposed to ionising radiation from occupational, medical or environmental sources. There is a lack of knowledge (and subsequent uncertainties in risk estimates) about the fundamental mechanisms underlying potential radiation-induced genetic diseases, the contribution of epigenetic processes to adverse outcomes if any, and the potential contributory role of lifestyle, physiological, and maternal vs paternal factors. This uncertainty is reinforced by a number of studies at variance either in the laboratory and/or in the field on various fauna and flora species, and between humans and non-human species.

This topic has not been updated by ICRP since 2003 for in utero exposure (Publication 90) and since 2001 for heritable effects by UNSCEAR (2001 report). More recently, NCRP Report No.174 covered this subject in 2013, but did not consider studies of non-human biota. In the current system of radiological protection, effects of in utero exposures on humans are considered as tissue reactions (or deterministic effects) whereas heritable effects are considered as stochastic effects. Consequently, congenital malformations are considered both as deterministic and stochastic effects, depending on the exposure situation (preconceptional or in utero). Hereditary effects are integrated as a simple add-in risk in the radiation detriment calculation process, with no specific consideration that results are derived from animal experiments. A revised assessment of the effects of ionising radiation in offspring and next generations is needed to inform future global revisions of the system of radiological protection.

The aim for the protection of biota is to ensure sustainability of populations and ecosystems rather than individuals. Here, reproduction is a key factor indicating if the level of radiation has impact at the population level. Vertebrate animal species, such as mammals and fish, are known to be among the most sensitive organisms and therefore addressed by the current review. The scientific reviews for radiation effects on biota (UNSCEAR 2008; ICRP108 and 124) provide some perspective to the radiation effects on humans as a mammalian species.

The Task Group is expected to address the following questions:

  • To provide an overview of approaches used to estimate effects and risks of radiation in offspring and next generations
  • To review pre-conceptional effects due to the exposure of parents
  • To review post-conceptional effects due to the exposure of the embryo and the fetus
  • To consider potential implications for the system of radiological protection for humans and nonhuman biota

The Task Group will develop an ICRP publication that reviews the scientific literature related to radiation-induced effects for the offspring of individuals exposed to ionising radiation, for both human and non-human species, including effects due to multigenerational (in utero and parent gonadal exposure) as well as transgenerational inheritance. Based on this review, the Task Group will provide advice about possible ways to consider these effects in the system of radiological protection. This publication will be one of the constitutive elements prepared to support the global revision of the radiological protection recommendations undertaken by the ICRP.

In addition, the Task Group will develop materials suitable for ICRPædia in collaboration with the Scientific Secretariat.

Sisko Salomaa (Chair), Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK), Finland
Richard Wakeford (Co-Chair), The University of Manchester, United Kingdom
Christelle Adam-Guillermin (Member), IRSN, France
Kimberly Applegate (Member), University of Kentucky COM (retired), USA
Manoor Prakash Hande (Member), National University of Singapore, Singapore
Dominique Laurier (Member), French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), France
Nori Nakamura (Member), Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF), Japan
Evgenia Ostroumova (Member), France
Thierry Schneider (Member), CEPN, France
Yoshiya Shimada (Member), Institute for Environmental Sciences, Japan
Svetlana Sosnina (Member), Russian Federation
Ignacia Tanaka (Member), Institute for Environmental Sciences (IES), Japan