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Harley, Naomi H.


From its inception in 1951 to the present, the measurement of radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons testing and the many associated programs to establish global distribution and human health effects have contributed significantly to the understanding of worldwide dispersal of contamination. The original measurements of regional surface deposition of fallout nuclides were with duplicate gummed film collectors. Later, collectors were established in a worldwide network to measure total deposition and specific radionuclides such as 90Sr and 137Cs, which evolved into the first large-scale, global environmental monitoring network. Programs were set up to determine dietary intake and human and animal tissue distribution of 90Sr and 137Cs. Some of the first measurements of natural background dietary radium and body potassium were a response to identify analog elements. The impact of the environmental measurements made for fallout went far beyond any dosimetric consequences. For example, present day information on bone tissue turnover rates are derived mainly from radiochemical analysis of 90Sr measurements in human bone. The spin off from the enormous expenditure in effort to make these measurements and to determine the health consequences of global fallout laid a rich basic and applied scientific foundation in many disciplines, particularly in exposure pathways from ground deposition to dietary uptake and human organ biokinetics.

*New York University School of Medicine, Department of Environmental Medicine, 550 First Avenue, New York, NY 10016.

Manuscript received 8 November 2001, accepted 16 November 2001

For correspondence or reprints contact N. H. Harley at the above address, or email at

© 2002 by the Health Physics Society