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New Zealand war veteran study collaboration

A New Zealand-based chromosome researcher studying the long-term genetic effects of British nuclear testing on New Zealand war veterans, is spending the week (beginning Monday 10th September, 2001)in St Andrews collaborating with a fellow chromosomal specialist.

Dr Al Rowland, from Massey University, is making his first visit to Dr Peter Bryant’s lab at the University of St Andrews, to discuss research strategies for the study of New Zealand military veterans exposed to radiation in the Pacific in the late 1950’s.

Dr Rowland and his team of molecular scientists will be investigating the possibilities of long-term genetic damage suffered by these men, by using advanced techniques to look at possible damage to chromosomes. He will be sharing information with Dr Bryant, one of the world’s leading researchers into the effects of radiation damage on chromosomes.

Research has shown that there is a strong correlation between radiation exposure, genetic damage and various cancers, especially blood and bone cancers.

Many of the surviving veterans claim that their exposure to radiation has led to cancer and hereditary disease in themselves and their families.

Over five hundred New Zealand naval personnel were present at the British ‘Operation Grapple’ thermo-nuclear hydrogen and atomic atmospheric bomb tests at Christmas and Malden islands in 1957 and 1958. The men were subjected to up to nine nuclear blasts.

The average age of death among these men has been 52.4 years, compared with an average life expectancy of 74 (in New Zealand at the end of the 1990’s).

A group of fifty surviving veterans, and fifty control volunteers of a similar age and lifestyle will be studied over the next 2 years, to measure their level of chromosome damage.

While Dr Rowland is leading the study, and sharing expertise with Dr Bryant, Dr John Podd, a neuro- psychologist from Massey University, will be examining the psychological profile of the veterans to establish what psychological effects have manifested as a result of their experience.

The study is being funded by the New Zealand Government and various other public bodies to the tune of $160,000.

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS:

DR AL ROWLAND WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW ON THURSDAY 13TH SEPTEMBER, BETWEEN 2 AND 4PM. PLEASE CALL 01334 467227 TO ARRANGE AN INTERVIEW.

Issued by Beattie Media On behalf of the University of St Andrews Contact Gayle Cook on 01334 467227, mobile 07900 050103, or email gec3@st-andrews.ac.uk

View the latest University news at http://www.st- andrews.ac.uk/extrel/press.htm

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