Radiological Impact of Atmospheric Nuclear Weapons Tests at Mururoa and Fangataufa Atolls to Populations in Oceania, South America and Africa: Comparison with French Polynesia

Document Type : Research Articles


1 Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, NIH, DHHS, Bethesda, MD, USA.

2 National Institute for Health and Medical Research, Center for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health (CESP), INSERM U1018 / Gustave Roussy, Radiation Epidemiology Group, Villejuif, France.

3 University Paris-Saclay, Villejuif, France.

4 National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD, USA (retired).


Objective: To evaluate the potential radiological impact of atmospheric nuclear weapons tests conducted in 1966-1974 at Mururoa and Fangataufa atolls on populations in Oceania, South America and Africa. Methods: Results of measurements of total beta(β)-concentrations in filtered air and 131I activity concentrations in locally produced cow’s milk in Oceania, South America and Africa after the tests were compared with those in French Polynesia. Radiation doses due to external irradiation and thyroid doses due to 131I intake with milk by local populations were also compared. Results: Higher total β-concentrations in filtered air, 131I activity concentrations in locally produced milk and radiation doses to local population were, in general, observed in French Polynesia than in other countries in the southern hemisphere. However, for specific years during the testing period, the radiological impact to South America was found to be similar or slightly higher than that to Tahiti. The resulting thyroid doses in the considered countries were lower than those in French Polynesia with two exceptions: thyroid doses due to 131I intake with cow’s milk for 1-y old child in 1968 were higher in Peru (0.35 mGy) and in Madagascar (0.30 mGy) than in Tahiti (0.25 mGy). However, the populations outside French Polynesia received doses lower than those from the natural sources of radiation. Conclusion: According to the current knowledge in radiation epidemiology, it is very unlikely that nuclear fallout due to French nuclear tests had a measurable radiological and health impact outside French Polynesia.


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