In an interview with CNN on June 7, nuclear engineer Arnold Gunderson states that, based on measurements of radionuclides in carfilters, he estimates that citizens on the Pacific northwest coast inhaled approximately five “hot particles” each day from Fukushima emissions in April, while people around Fukushima were breathing around ten ‘Hot Particles’ per day. These ‘Hot Particles’ can lodge in lungs, digestive tract or bones and over time cause cancers. They may be too small to be detected with regular Geiger counters:

The following report provides some insight as to the significance, definition and health impacts of “hot particles”: “Radiation Standards for Hot Particles ” by A.R. Tamplin and T.B. Cochran, NRDC, 1974,

Some relevant sections of this report include the following:
“Radiation Standards for Hot Particles” was written in support of a petition by the Natural Resources Defense Council to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Atomic Energy Commission requesting (1) a reduction of the existing radiation protection standards applicable to the internal exposure of man to insoluble alpha-emitting hot particles and (2) the establishment, with respect to such materials, of standards governing the maximum permissible concentrations in air and maximum permissible surface contamination levels in unrestricted areas. […] The petition was filed with the AEC on February 14, 1974. It is totally irresponsible for the AEC Task Group on Recommendations for Clean Up and Rehabilitation of Enewetak Atoll to issue its report on “ June 19, 1974, without acknowledqinq the serious implications of hot particles as detailed in our report”. (from cover letter)

  • “a hot particle is defined as a particle that contains sufficient activity to deliver at least 1000 rem/yr to the surrounding lung tissue. For isotopes having half-lives greater than one year, this would correspond to particles containing at least 0.07 pCi of alpha activity.” (p.51)
  • “we recommend that the MPLPB for members of the public be 0.2 hot particles, and the average lung burden for members of the public be 0.07 hot particles, a factor of 3 less than the maximum.” (p. 45)
  • [it is recommended that...] “For accidental releases exposure (10 CFR 100.ll(a) (l)) MPLI’B (2 hours exposure) = 10 hot particles” (p. 52)
  • “[...]the existing biological evidence strongly suggests that an insoluble particle of respiratory tissue represents a risk of cancer induction of between 1/1000 and l/10,000.” (p.41)
  • [regarding experiments with Beagles exposed to Pu 239]: Indeed, the cancer risk may, as for skin and soft tissues, correspond to a risk per particle in the neighborhood of 1/1000 to 1/10,000.” (p. 31-32)

In this context, the opinion piece “Unsafe at Any Dose” by Helen Caldicott in the New York Times, April 30, 2011, is of interest:

An article by the Vancouver Courier on May 19 examined the possible implications of airborne Plutonium from spent fuel rods using “MOX” fuel (including Plutonium and Uranium) in the crippled Fukushima reactors:

The following document from 1988 contains information about Chernobyl hot particles. See in particular p45 (pdf page, p46 in the document) for what they found by countries. It also contains many references to scientific publications in the topic.

3 Responses to ““Hot Particles” & Plutonium”

  1. Antje Says:

    I wanted to read this articIe but I think this web link is not active anymore:

    An article by the Vancouver Courier on May 19 examined the possible implications of airborne Plutonium from spent fuel rods using “MOX” fuel (including Plutonium and Uranium) in the crippled Fukushima reactors:

  2. [...] an amount smaller than a speck of dust implies a high risk of getting fatal lung cancer (see also Hot Particles on this site). Earlier this summer, Japanese government officials tried to quench (pun intended) [...]

  3. Guest Says:

    Congratulations on an excellent website!

    Regarding Plutonium, Dr. Helen Caldicott discusses the health effects of plutonium beginning @8:00 on this video:

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