A link between solar events and congenital malformations: Is ionizing radiation enough to explain it?

Andrew C. Overholt, Adrian L. Melott, Dimitra Atri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cosmic rays are known to cause biological effects directly and through ionizing radiation produced by their secondaries. These effects have been detected in airline crews and other specific cases where members of the population are exposed to above average secondary fluxes. Recent work has found a correlation between solar particle events and congenital malformations. In this work we use the results of computational simulations to approximate the ionizing radiation from such events as well as longer-term increases in cosmic ray flux. We find that the amounts of ionizing radiation produced by these events are insufficient to produce congenital malformations under the current paradigm regarding muon ionizing radiation. We believe that further work is needed to determine the correct ionizing radiation contribution of cosmogenic muons. We suggest that more extensive measurements of muon radiation effects may show a larger contribution to ionizing radiation dose than currently assumed. Key Points Solar events produce measurable amounts of ionizing radiation at ground level The ionizing radiation is insufficient to explain the observed phenomena Future work regarding the effects of muons is required

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1537-1542
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015


  • congenital malformations
  • cosmic rays
  • muons
  • radiation
  • solar flares
  • solor proton events

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Geophysics


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