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Fewer girls born near German nuke waste site
Photo: DPA

Fewer girls born near German nuke waste site

Published: 28 Apr 2012 10:12 GMT+02:00
Updated: 28 Apr 2012 10:12 GMT+02:00

Since radioactive waste started being transported to a nuclear waste facility in Lower Saxony, fewer girls have been born in the region – a phenomenon eerily similar to what happened after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, scientists said.

Data shows that since 1995, when the first barrels of nuclear waste started arriving at Gorleben, nearly 1,000 fewer girls have been born, compared to the previous decade, according to Hagen Scherb, a mathematician at the Helmholtz Centre in Munich.

The “Lost Girls” phenomenon, described in an article published in Die Welt Friday, was also documented after the Chernobyl nuclear reactor catastrophe of 1986, according to the environmental group "Deutsche Umwelthilfe". But the figures weren’t so dramatic. The group did not release the girl-to-boy birth rates following that disaster.

Before the barrels of radioactive waste started rolling into Gorleben – despite repeated protest from environmental and citizens’ rights groups – there were 100 girls born for every 101 boys, the paper noted.

Following the transports that changed to 100 girls to every 109 boys. The statistical average across Germany is 100 girls for every 105 boys.

Karl Sperling, a genetics expert with Berlin’s Charité hospital has speculated that radioactive waves – even those well below acceptable limits - can damage the X chromosomes needed to produce female embryos.

But while the data clearly shows fewer girls being born, experts do not agree on the cause, the paper wrote.

The German environmental group, in a statement, demanded that the government provide a full scientific explanation of the data. The Lower Saxony health office noted last year that there were fewer girls being born in the state.

The data showed there was no evidence that a low-dose radiation exposure was produced by the Gorleben storage facility, the paper wrote.

However Berlin epidemiologist Christoph Zink criticized this, saying that the models used to determine the radiation dosing were outdated because the latest techniques and experience developed since Chernobyl were not being used.

Scientists agreed there is still a lot to be learned about radioactive biology, but current knowledge is good enough to reject some claims as false, they said.

The Local/mw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

12:54 April 28, 2012 by IsGood
The selection of the Gorleben site may have been expediant political and bad science, but that appears to be true of this article, too. In Gorleben today, you report there are 100 girls for every 209 children born; nationally Germany has 100 girls for every 205 births. 100/209 versus 100/205, or 47.8% versus 48.8%. There will be variation from town to town and year to year, and these numbers are easily accounted for by that variation. By chance, some towns will even exhibit longer-term variation above or below the national average.

I think it's insane to pursue nuclear fission power when we have no way to safely store the waste product, which makes this superficial article such a disappointment. A better analysis would look at the variation over time and whether or not the year-to-year variation in Gorleben is significantly (not just seemingly) different than other, similar towns in Germany. Was this done?
13:55 April 28, 2012 by DOZ
Commonly known as the cure.
17:32 April 28, 2012 by wxman
A statistical analysis might discover this is a common case of correlation without causation.
05:20 April 29, 2012 by anaverageguy
The expert "speculated"? Oh yes. VERY scientific.
23:41 April 30, 2012 by DavidtheNorseman
Before jumping to conclusions I'd first want to check if selective abortion is going on in the region....it seems to be endemic, sigh......
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