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Internal Contamination by Actinides After Wounding: A Robust Rodent Model for Assessment of Local and Distant Actinide Retention

Griffiths, N.M.*; Wilk, J.C.*; Abram, M.C.*; Renault, D.*; Chau, Q.*; Helfer, N.; Guichet, C.; Van der Meeren, A.

Health Physics:
doi: 10.1097/HP.0b013e31825aa202

Abstract: Internal contamination by actinides following wounding may occur in nuclear fuel industry workers or subsequent to terrorist activities, causing dissemination of radioactive elements. Contamination by alpha particle emitting actinides can result in pathological effects, either local or distant from the site of entry. The objective of the present study was to develop a robust experimental approach in the rat for short- and long- term actinide contamination following wounding by incision of the skin and muscles of the hind limb. Anesthetized rats were contaminated with Mixed OXide (MOX, uranium, plutonium oxides containing 7.1% plutonium) or plutonium nitrate (Pu nitrate) following wounding by deep incision of the hind leg. Actinide excretion and tissue levels were measured as well as histological changes from 2 h to 3 mo. Humid swabs were used for rapid evaluation of contamination levels and proved to be an initial guide for contamination levels. Although the activity transferred from wound to blood is higher after contamination with a moderately soluble form of plutonium (nitrate), at 7 d most of the MOX (98%) or Pu nitrate (87%) was retained at the wound site. Rapid actinide retention in liver and bone was observed within 24 h, which increased up to 3 mo. After MOX contamination, a more rapid initial urinary excretion of americium was observed compared with plutonium. At 3 mo, around 95% of activity remained at the wound site, and excretion of Pu and Am was extremely low. This experimental approach could be applied to other situations involving contamination following wounding including rupture of the dermal, vascular, and muscle barriers.

Author Information

*Laboratoire de RadioToxicologie, CEA/DAM/Ile de France, Bruyères le Châtel, 91297 Arpajon, France; †Service de Santé au Travail, CEA/DAM/Ile de France, Bruyères le Châtel, 91297 Arpajon, France; ‡Laboratoire d’Analyses de Biologie et Médicale, CEA/DAM/Ilede France, Bruyères le Châtel, 91297 Arpajon, France; §Current address: Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, 2425 Ridgecrest Drive SE,Albuquerque, NM 87108.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

For correspondence contact: N. M. Griffiths, Laboratoire de RadioToxicologie, CEA/DAM/Ile de France, Bruyères le Châtel, 91297 Arpajon, France, or email at

(Manuscript accepted 16 April 2012)

©2012Health Physics Society