The long-term retention of inhaled soluble forms of plutonium raises concerns as to the potential health effects in persons working in nuclear energy or the nuclear weapons program. The distributions of long-term retained inhaled plutonium-nitrate [239Pu (NO3)4] deposited in the lungs of an accidentally exposed nuclear worker (Human Case 0269) and in the lungs of experimentally exposed beagle dogs with varying initial lung depositions were determined via autoradiographs of selected histologic lung, lymph node, trachea, and nasal turbinate tissue sections. These studies showed that both the human and dogs had a nonuniform distribution of plutonium throughout the lung tissue. Fibrotic scar tissue effectively encapsulated a portion of the plutonium and prevented its clearance from the body or translocation to other tissues and diminished dose to organ parenchyma. Alpha radiation activity from deposited plutonium in Human Case 0269 was observed primarily along the subpleural regions while no alpha activity was seen in the tracheobronchial lymph nodes of this individual. However, relatively high activity levels in the tracheobronchial lymph nodes of the beagles indicated the lymphatic system was effective in clearing deposited plutonium from the lung tissues. In both the human case and beagle dogs, the appearance of retained plutonium within the respiratory tract was inconsistent with current biokinetic models of clearance for soluble forms of plutonium. Bound plutonium can have a marked effect on the dose to the lungs and subsequent radiation exposure has the potential to increase cancer risk. Cancer Res; 72(21); 1–8. ©2012 AACR.
- Received May 24, 2012.
- Revision received July 23, 2012.
- Accepted August 11, 2012.
- ©2012 American Association for Cancer Research.