Acute radiation-induced symptoms reported in survivors after the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been suspected to be associated with rain that fell after the explosions, but this association has not been evaluated in an epidemiological study that considers the effects of the direct dose from the atomic bombs and other factors. The aim of this study was to evaluate this association using information from a fixed cohort, comprised of 93,741 members of the Life Span Study who were in the city at the time of the bombing. Information on acute symptoms and exposure to rain was collected in surveys conducted by interviewers, primarily in the 1950s. The proportion of survivors developing severe epilation was around 60% at levels of direct radiation doses of 3 Gy or higher and less than 0.2% at levels <0.005 Gy regardless of reported rain exposure status. The low prevalence of acute symptoms at low direct doses indicates that the reported fallout rain was not homogeneously radioactive at a level sufficient to cause a substantial probability of acute symptoms. We observed that the proportion of reported acute symptoms was slightly higher among those who reported rain exposure in some subgroups, however, suggestions that rain was the cause of these reported symptoms are not supported by analyses specific to the known areas of radioactive fallout. Misclassification of exposure and outcome, including symptoms due to other causes and recall bias, appears to be a more plausible explanation. However, the insufficient and retrospective nature of the available data limited our ability to quantify the attribution to those possible causes.
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Vol. 185 • No. 6