Numerous investigations have been carried out on the possible impact of the Chernobyl accident on the prevalence of anomalies at birth and on perinatal mortality. In many cases the studies were aimed at the detection of differences of pregnancy outcome measurements between regions or time periods. Most authors conclude that there is no evidence of a detrimental physical effect on congenital anomalies or other outcomes of pregnancy following the accident. In this paper, we report on statistical analyses of time trends of perinatal mortality in Germany. Our main intention is to investigate whether perinatal mortality, as reflected in official records, was increased in 1987 as a possible effect of the Chernobyl accident. We show that, in Germany as a whole, there was a significantly elevated perinatal mortality proportion in 1987 as compared to the trend function. The increase is 4.8% (p = 0.0046) of the expected perinatal death proportion for 1987. Even more pronounced levels of 8.2% (p = 0.0458) and 8.5% (p = 0.0702) may be found in the higher contaminated areas of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR), including West Berlin, and of Bavaria, respectively. To investigate the impact of statistical models on results, we applied three standard regression techniques. The observed significant increase in 1987 is independent of the statistical model used. Stillbirth proportions show essentially the same behavior as perinatal death proportions, but the results for all of Germany are nonsignificant due to the smaller numbers involved. Analysis of the association of stillbirth proportions with the 137 Cs deposition on a district level in Bavaria discloses a significant relationship. Our results are in contrast to those of many analyses of the health consequences of the Chernobyl accident and contradict the present radiobiologic knowledge. As we are dealing with highly aggregated data, other causes or artifacts may explain the observed effects. Hence, the findings should be interpreted with caution, and further independent evidence should be sought.
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