Births and male:female birth ratio in Scandinavia and the United Kingdom after the Windscale fire of October 1957

Victor Grech | Department of Paediatrics, Mater Dei Hospital, Msida, Malta
Received 19 November 2013 |Accepted 5 January 2014 |

AIMS: The Windscale (UK) fire of 1957 carried radioactive fallout according to the then prevailing wind patterns, in a North-Easterly direction across the Nordic countries, toward Norway. The male:female ratio at birth (M/F) is known to be increased after parental exposure to ionising radiation due to foetal losses that affect female more than male pregnancies. This study was carried out in order to ascertain whether the Windscale fire had any effects on M/F and birth rates in the United Kingdom and Scandinavia.

METHODS: Annual live births by gender were obtained from aWorld Health Organization dataset. The null hypothesiswas that there were no significant changes in M/F or in births in temporal association with the 1957Windscale event in abovementioned countries.

RESULTS: There were no significant effects on the UK and most of Scandinavia but there was a significant rise in M/F for Norway and Finland with an aggregate deficit of around 4000 births in each country.

CONCLUSIONS: A recent study suggests that the plume from the reactor extended further east than previously believed. This study confirms that contamination from theWindscale fire had a negligible impact on the UK (as measured by birth effects) but had a significant impact on births in Norway and Sweden.

MF Windscale Sellafield