Disproportionate Impacts of Radiation Exposure on Women, Children, and Pregnancy: Taking Back Our Narrative


Folkers, Cynthia. 2021. “Disproportionate Impacts of Radiation Exposure on Women, Children, and Pregnancy: Taking Back Our Narrative.” Journal of the History of Biology 54: 31–66.

Author: Cynthia Folkers


Narratives surrounding ionizing radiation have often minimized radioactivity’s impact on the health of human and non-human animals and the natural environment. Many Cold War research policies, practices, and interpretations drove nuclear technology forward by institutionally obscuring empirical evidence of radiation’s disproportionate and low-dose harm—a legacy we still confront. Women, children, and pregnancy development are particularly sensitive to exposure from radioactivity, sufering more damage per dose than adult males, even down to small doses, making low doses a cornerstone of concern. Evidence of compounding generational damage could indicate increased sensitivity through heritable impact. This essay examines the existing empirical evidence demonstrating these sensitivities, and how research institutions and regulatory authorities have devalued them, willingly sacrifcing health in the service of maintaining and expanding nuclear technology (Nadesan 2019). Radiation’s disproportionate impacts should now be the research and policy focus, as society is poised to make crucial and long-lasting decisions regarding climate change mitigation and future energy sources (Brown 2019b).

Topics: Age, Youth, Gender, Health, Reproductive Health, Livelihoods, Security, Food Security, Weapons /Arms, Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Year: 2021

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