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September 29, 1956


JAMA. 1956;162(5):475. doi:10.1001/jama.1956.02970220039013

Because of the wide publicity given to conflicting statements, there has been much confusion in the public mind regarding the long-range effects on the human race of exposure to various ionizing rays. The statements that atomic explosions caused no damage to descendants of the people in the bombed cities of Japan on the one hand and that atom bomb testing has already seriously undermined the genetic basis of all mankind on the other present extremes, both of which are in error.1 It is important that the truth be recognized. All radioactive materials, whether naurally occurring radium or artificially produced isotopes, emit rays, the most important of which from a genetic standpoint are gamma rays. In emitting such rays these elements undergo a process of decay or transformation into a more stable form. X-rays used chiefly for medical diagnostic purposes may also, by their scattered radiation, provide a significant amount