Research directed toward developing an improved understanding of the biomedical consequences of inhaling transuranic elements was initiated at the Lovelace Foundation in 1968, recognizing the need for additional information on these radionuclides as well as the opportunity to obtain data for comparison with those previously collected and being collected on fission product radionuclides. The research is being performed to develop information that will assist in predicting potential effects in man from inhaled transuranic elements, and to provide the data necessary for establishing realistic radiation protection guides. Recognizing the need for quantitative data on the influence of particle size on the toxicity of inhaled alpha emitters, a major, and successful, effort has been directed toward the production of monodisperse aerosols of respirable particles. Studies on the metabolism and toxicity of 239Pu, 241Am, 244Cm and 252Cf have been performed or are under way in mice, Chinese hamsters, Syrian hamsters, rats and Beagle dogs. The effectiveness of bronchopulmonary lavage for removing inhaled radioactivity, including 239Pu, is also being studied. This study, in part, provided the basis for the use of bronchopulmonary lavage to recently treat an individual who accidentally inhaled 239Pu.
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