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URINARY EXCRETION OF RADIONUCLIDES FROM MARSHALLESE EXPOSED TO FALLOUT FROM THE 1954 BRAVO NUCLEAR TEST

Harris, Payne S.*; Simon, Steven L.†; Ibrahim, Shawki A.‡

doi: 10.1097/HP.0b013e3181dc50a4
Paper

Soon after the Bravo nuclear test at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands on 1 March 1954, urine samples were collected for analysis of excreted radioactivity from native residents exposed to radioactive fallout on two atolls as well as from U.S. military personnel on a third atoll. The earliest acquired samples, obtained by the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (LASL), were assayed for various radionuclides and provided the first known measurements of 131I in urine following exposure to fallout from a nuclear test. Over the course of 1954, many additional samples were collected by the LASL, as well as by the Atomic Energy Commission New York Operations Office's Health and Safety Laboratory and the Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory. Collectively, the groups sampled included Marshallese exposed on Rongelap and Ailinginae Atolls, American military weather observers temporarily resident on Rongerik Atoll, and sailors from the Japanese fishing vessel, the Lucky Dragon. While the bioassay measurement data and individual urine volumes have been crucial to various attempts to assess intakes of radioactivity and the related internal radiation doses among the Marshallese, those data have never been published in any peer-reviewed journal, but have been restricted to agency memoranda, laboratory reports, and summaries in some publications and book chapters. Reconstructions of internal doses to Marshallese in 1954 and in later years have depended on these data and, hence, they have considerable historical importance as well as importance to ongoing health risk projections for Marshallese. This paper presents much of the original data on urine volumes and radioactivity from the various assays of urine for radionuclides, and compares estimates of 131I intakes made in 1954, 1985, 1987, and 2008.

* Santa Fe, NM (deceased, previously of Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory); Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD; Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, CO.

For correspondence contact: Steven L. Simon, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, 6120 Executive Blvd., Bethesda, MD 20892, or email at ssimon@mail.nih.gov.

(Manuscript accepted 5 March 2010).

©2010Health Physics Society