I was a fairly relaxed mother-to-be during each of my three pregnancies. I didn't even try to follow the overwrought "Best-Odds Diet" popularized by the blockbuster What to Expect When You're Expecting, for example, preferring my normal, reasonably healthy diet, including grateful consumption of calcium-rich ice cream, which my obstetricians kindly included on their list of excellent foods for pregnancy. But I did develop one odd habit: Whenever I used my microwave, I never stood directly in front of the machine as it hummed along, just in case those waves of instantaneous heat could harm my baby.

My microwave avoidance seems silly today, as I read about the potentially dire effects of radiation exposure on pregnant women and their fetuses in Japan's earthquake-devastated north, where damage to a nuclear reactor has caused an ongoing crisis. Experts warn that unborn fetuses are particularly vulnerable to the effects of radiation, which their mothers can breathe in or ingest through tainted food. Radiation levels that do not pose major threats to adults can be devastating to babies in utero, particularly during vital periods of development. According to The Daily Beast,

Should the worst-case scenario become a reality, it could lead to a generation of children born with all manner of maladies, from congenital malformation to mental retardation. Even at radiation levels too low to make a mother-to-be sick, health consequences for a fetus can be severe, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fetal exposure to radiation is particularly damaging during the stage of organogenesis (9-42 days), a period of gestation crucial to the development of the heart, lungs, and brain …

Studies of Russia's Chernobyl ...

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