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Enhancing Nuclear Safety


The effects on health of chronic contamination with a low dose of radionuclides

(juillet 2011)

RESEARCH allowing the evaluation of radionuclide-related risks and their impact on health

The ENVIRHOM-Santé experimental research programme or Understanding the effects on health of chronic contamination with a low dose of radionuclides

The brain: A new target organ to uranium

Is the xenobiotic detoxification system affected by chronic exposure to uranium ?

Chronic ingestion of caesium 137 in a post-accident situation

Chronic exposure to caesium 137: Experimental and epidemiological studies

Metabolomics: Application in radiotoxicology

The perspectives of the ENVIRHOM-Santé programme

Chronic ingestion of caesium 137 in a post-accident situation

Jean-Marc Bertho, Yann Gueguen

Researchers at the Experimental radiotoxicology laboratory (LRTOX)

The radiotoxicity of caesium 137

fiche radionucélide du Césium-137Caesium 137 is a radionuclide of exclusively anthropogenic1 origin, which was released into the environment in very large quantities as a result of accidents (accident at the Mayak Soviet nuclear site during the 1950s2, the reactor No. 4 explosion at Chernobyl3 in 1986 and the source accident in Goiania4 in 1987) or aerial nuclear tests on the Kazakhstan plains and in south pacific.

Given its high solubility, this radionuclide difuses into the geosphere and biosphere and is detected in food chains. Moreover, given the long radioactive period of caesium 137 (30.2 years) and its elevated clearance time5 (10 to 25 years depending on the type of soil), this radionuclide is the main source of long-term exposure for the populations living in contaminated regions, either by external irradiation or by ingestion. Furthermore, several studies show a correlation between the caesium 137 whole body activity and the quantity ingested (Handl et al., 2003, Takatsuji et al., 2000), which in turn depends on the level of contamination in the area considered. This type of exposure situation by chronic ingestion of caesium 137 could therefore lead to the onset of biological effects in exposed populations.

The consequences of this type of chronic ingestion have not been fully elucidated either in terms of the biokinetic profile of radionuclides or potential biological effects. A series of studies on the effects of caesium 137 was therefore carried out at the Experimental Radiotoxicology Laboratory at the IRSN, within the scope of the ENVIRHOM programme.



links and refrences : 

1) Radionuclides and Health sheet list

2)   Catastrophes et accidents nucléaires dans l'ex-Union soviétique (2001), Les collections de livres et CD-Roms scientifiques de l'IRSN

3) In depth: Chernobyl's Accident  

4) At Goiânia, in the Brazilian State of Goiás, a radioactive contamination accident occured on September 13, 1987, after an old radiotherapy source was taken from an abandoned hospital site in the city. It was subsequently handled by many people, resulting in four deaths and radioactive contamination of 245 other people

5) Clearance time: the time required for a drug to be eliminated after administration. Eliminated means to the point where it can no longer be detected.

 Handl J, Beltz D, Botsch W, Harb S, Jakob D, Michel R, Romantschuk LD (2003) Evaluation of
radioactive exposure from 137Cs in contaminated areas of Northern Ukraine. Health Physics

 Takatsuji T, Sato H, Takada J, Endo S, Hoshi M, Sharifov VF, Veselkina II, Pilenko IV, Kalimullin WAF, Masyakin VB, Kovalev AI, Yoshikawa I, Okajima S (2000) Relationship between the 137Cs
whole-body counting results and soil and food contamination in farms near chernobyl. Health
Physics 78:86-89.


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