The timebomb in your lymph nodes
illustrating the fallacy of the "average dose" model.
plutonium in tracheo-bronchial lymph node (94KB) Plutonium 239 autoradiography. The star slightly left of centre shows tracks made by alpha rays from a particle of plutonium 239 in the lung tissue of an ape. 
This set of alpha tracks (magnified 500 times) occurred over a 48 hr period. 
The tracks are about 35 microns (5 cell diameters) but this is a two dimensional view of a 3D tissue event, which in fact occurs continuously in biological space.
Taken from Robert Del Tredici's book Working in the Fields of the Bomb (1) published in 1987.
The situation would have been much the same if the particle had been depleted uranium. 
Landmine in your lungII
A single particle of DU smaller than 5 microns can expose the surrounding tissue to radiation 800 times the annual dosage permitted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for the entire body.
See this link for establishment admissions on this subject.
See this link for cartoon illustrating the absorbed dose fallacy.

Alpha particles have a short emission path so may be hard to detect outside the body. Customary histology and autopsy studies do not detect plutonium in the living body so it is likely to be an occult, undetected and unreported factor. In man, it is particularly well situated to cause harm since it lodges especially in the body-wide reticulo-endothelial system. (2), in human tracheo-bronchial lymph nodes at concentrations between 100 times and 10,000 times higher than in any other tissues in the same body. (3), (4). Here it can impair and kill cells of the immune system leading to immune deficiency and eventually leukaemia. Leukaemia is found down wind from Windscale which has been processing nuclear waste and extracting plutonium since 1952.

Teeth from children living near Sellafield contain more Plutonium than those more distant. The trend is continuous to the largest distances. (6)

Plutonium, an entirely man-made product of nuclear fission, is now ubiquitous. See a report on plutonium in the environment on this site.

1. From At Work in the Fields of the Bomb, Robert del Tredici, Harper and Row, 1987, page 39.
2. Environmental Plutonium in Humans by David M. Taylor Applied Radiation and Isotopes V.46, No.11, 1995, p1245-1252
3. McKinroy, J. F. Kathren, R.L. Voelz, G.L. Swint, M. J. 1991 U. S Transuranium Registry Report on the 239 Pu distribution in a human body Health Physics, Vol. 60 No. 3 307-333 March 1991
see this link for the data
5.Plutonium in the Environment Symposium Report, Ottawa July 1994, reported in Applied Radiation and Isotopes V.46, No.11, 1995 :
6. Variations in the concentation of plutonium, strontium 90 and total alpha-emitters in human teeth collected within the British Isles. Science of the Total Environment 201 (1997) 235-243.

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This page was last updated May 2001