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PU-238 Internal Hazards
« on: Sep 27, 2005, 08:10 »
If you were to receive an internal dose of 1900 DPM Alpha from PU-238 from a nasal swab, what would the short/long term effects be and how soon would the sypmptoms show?
This was received from opening a glove box prior to disposal.

Offline 870xprs

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Re: PU-238 Internal Hazards
« Reply #1 on: Oct 01, 2005, 06:08 »
First of all, DPM is not dose.  Disintegrations Per Minute is a measure of radioactivity.  1900 DPM of Pu-238 would be 863 picocuries.  Too many unanswered questions to come up with a reasonable estimate of dose from that limited information.  Since that activity was measured on a nasal swab, that's not really representative of what was actually inhaled and got trapped in the mucus lining of the respiratory system.  And since you can't reliably measure alpha-emitters with a whole-body counter, you would need to provide some bioassay samples (urine or fecal) to a qualified analytical laboratory.  Then a qualified dosimetrist could use that information to make a dose estimate.

863 picocuries of Pu-238 is 123 ALI (stochastic Annual Limit on Intake) per 10CFR20 appendix B.  That's not a huge amount, but it's not insignificant either.  I wouldn't want to speculate what the actual quantity of material was breathed in.  Only bioassay samples could tell you that.  Another factor is what the material's particle size was, which would determine whether the material will eventually be transported out of the lungs in the mucus (larger particles) and swallowed and excreted (resulting in an ingestion dose which would be a smaller dose), or whether the particles were small enough to be retained in the deep parts of the lungs (resulting in a true inhalation dose which would be a larger dose).  Another factor is the chemical form of the material, i.e. soluble or insoluble in tissue fluids.  Soluble means it could be more easily absorbed and transported throughout the body.

From your limited information, it sounds like the intake was not large.  I don't think there would be any short term effects from that amount.  If the material was absorbed and transported throughout the body, it would accumulate and show effects at the bone surfaces.  And it would most likely take quite a few years.  The effects are called "stochastic" which means there is a probability associated, which means the effects may or may not be seen.  The higher the stochastic dose, the higher the probability of seeing the effects.

There are a lot of gaps in my explanation.  You need to talk face-to-face with a qualified internal dosimetrist about followup bioassays and long-term effects.  The licensee where you work is responsible for providing you all the information you request about this.  Keep asking questions until you get the answers.  The folks at REACTS in Oak Ridge could also answer your questions.  Good luck.

Offline SloGlo

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Re: PU-238 Internal Hazards
« Reply #2 on: Oct 03, 2005, 05:57 »
please define short term and long term.
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Re: PU-238 Internal Hazards
« Reply #3 on: Oct 04, 2005, 07:39 »
I think that most of my question was answered from the last quote. Thanks to everyone that helped me out with this issue.


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Re: PU-238 Internal Hazards
« Reply #4 on: Oct 26, 2005, 07:26 »
'please define short term and long term.'

Spulter~! 1 - 5 years?

Hi guys - long time no see!

Ok - Patient X needs to blow his nose ... carefully.
While it is not a lot of counts (ie there have been people with waaay more) it is an indicator that it has been stopped by the nasal system.
I would run a sputem/flem count - and get patient 'X' to spit - not swallow for the next 24 hours ... so one can recover bits.
Generally, depending on particle size - only 10% gets past the nose ... of course he was probably breathing through the mouth as well? So that doesn't apply.

It also depends on what isotope / ratio he has .... you can work out the amount present from the t1/2 of the material. [At=A0e^-(lambda.t)] with [lambda= 0.693/t1/2] if you are desperate ....from first principles.

A quick inhale with some gooey steamy stuff would go down as well ... just to flush ... as there is no guarante that a 'hot spot' hasn't goten past - and that will kill.

Macrophage mop up the surfaces of the linings - and they will pick up any partciles and transfer them to the lymph nodes for analysis. Once it is in the lymph - it's on its way around your body.

The only rescue approach would be lavage (you don't want one - trust me, so don't breath in the future) - which is limited to 2 procedures due to lung damage.
A follow up urine/stool run with a bit of chelation would be an excellent precautionary ... depending on amounts recovered.

More info is coming in on the long term effects of tradiation and nuclide damage onthe human body.

There is a guy here in NZ doing genetic studies on survivors of the Christmas Island Navy Vets who sailed through ground zero after a test. The picture isn't pretty.

There is nothing like a precautionary appraoch for peace of mind ... and that some of these stochastic efects don't actually meam very much in the real world.
A cell is of a generally finite volume, it contains a set of genetic instructions ... nad has a purpose like any other machine. Most of the time, it will commit suicide or be cleaned up, if damaged.
Sometimes it won't ... and that's when you have problems ... either genetic or cancer.

As a guideline - I'd limit body burned to 100 nanogrammes ... depending on isotope ... now that'll upset a few people.

PS: No eating raw pop corn on the stool samples - when the techies put it in the oven to dry it out ...


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Re: PU-238 Internal Hazards
« Reply #5 on: Oct 26, 2005, 07:29 »
238 is from memory one of the short 1/2 lives ... and is an alpha ... which is the worst possible internal.
Maximum precautionary approach.

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