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Harley Naomi H.; Pasternack, Bernard S.
Health Physics: September 1979
Papers: PDF Only

Inhalation of alpha emitting actinides delivers a dose to critical cancer sites in the human body. These sites are the bronchial epithelium and cells near bone surfaces. Inhalation of the naturally occurring actinides uranium and thorium in resuspended soil in the air results in a continuous exposure for the global population of about 0.1 microCi/m3 for each of these actinides. The highest dose is from the natural actinide 230Th. Over 50 yr, the dose to bronchial epithelium is 0.05 mrad and to bone surfaces 0.4 mrad. In the case of accidental environmental contamination (e.g. near a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant) the man-made actinides plutonium, americium and curium could deliver about the same alpha dose to these sites if the soil is contaminated to the same level as the natural actinides (−1 microCi/g). Two nuclear accidents have already produced contamination of about this level. Exposures in this case, however, are to small local populations compared with global exposure for the natural actinides. Significant enhancement of the natural radioactive actinide pollution by combustion of all types of fossil fuel is suspected but not enough data are available to estimate total population doses.

©1979Health Physics Society