From the Aug. 4 issue of Science News:

The Japanese call them "pika" children, meaning "children of the flash." They were still in the womb in August 1945 when the atomic bombs that leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki sent their mothers reeling. They are the youngest survivors of the atomic bomb -- but 45 years later, they are far from the luckiest.

Within a decade of the bombings, scientists had already documented fetal brain injuries and subsequent mental retardation in children born to mothers who were within 2,000 meters of ground zero when the bombs exploded. Last year, reassessments of those early data revealed links between stages of fetal development at the time of the bombing and the likelihood of severe mental retardation. In particular, fetuses exposed between the 8th and 15th weeks of gestation suffered the highest subsequent rates of severe mental retardation, small head size, convulsive seizure and poor performance in school and on IQtests ...

Biologically assaulted before birth, pika children went on to suffer repeated sociological blow. {James N.} Yamazaki, who last fall interviewed families of pika children in Japan, says the pika label carries a severe stigma there. As adults, these individuals have difficulty finding employment, and some have been institutionalized, explains the University of California, Los Angeles, pediatrician. "Some parents don't want to talk about it because they fear discrimination against family members," he says.

Moreover, the researchers note, "new worries beset many of these parents, for they are now 60 to 70 years of age and fear for the future care of their {handicapped} children."