The first objective of this symposium is to assess the up-to-date scientific data in the field of radiation-induced risks from an exposure of embryos to ionizing radiation. The potential risks associated with an acute embryonic exposure include essentially prenatal mortality, growth retardation and congenital anomalies, mental retardation, leukemia and cancer. Recent data from radiobiological research showed that the genetic characteristics of the exposed embryos may modulate their radiation sensitivity to some extent. On the other hand, new data from epidemiological studies are raising concern. Those include possible increases in particular congenital anomalies or cognitive effects after exposure of germ cells or embryos to chronic low dose irradiation. Early infancy is also a period of peculiar radiation sensitivity, as illustrated by the large increase in the incidence of thyroid cancer observed among people exposed as children to high levels of radioactive iodine after the Chernobyl accident. Leading specialists have been asked to deliver lectures in the different fields covered by the symposium.
The second objective of the symposium is to discuss the current data and its potential implications, as well as the needs for future research. This part of the symposium will include a round table discussion between various stakeholders, some of them work outside the radiation protection community (journalists, philosophers, legal experts, … ).
Intended to be both scientifically accurate and yet understandable to an educated non-specialist audience, the symposium will take place at the Royal Academies for Science and the Arts of Belgium, in the heart of Brussels.