General overview of the effects of nuclear testing

Page 3: General Overview

CHART 1 – EFFECTS OF RADIONUCLIDES

Radionuclide

Half-life*

Health hazards

Xenon
(Xe)
6.7 hours Inhalation in excessive concentrations can result in dizziness, nausea, vomiting, loss of consciousness, and death. At low oxygen concentrations, unconsciousness and death may occur in seconds without warning.
Americium-241
(241Am)
432 years Moves rapidly through the body after ingestion and is concentrated within the bones for a long period of time. During this storage americium will slowly decay and release radioactive particles and rays. These rays can cause alteration of genetic materials and bone cancer.
Iodine-131
(131I)
8 days When present in high levels in the environment from radioactive fallout, I-131 can be absorbed through contaminated food. It also accumulates in the thyroid gland, where it can destroy all or part of the thyroid. May cause damage to the thyroid as it decays. Thyroid cancer may occur.
Caesium-137
(137Cs)
30 years After entering the body, caesium is distributed fairly uniformly through the body, with higher concentration in muscle tissue and lower concentration in bones. Can cause gonadal irradiation and genetic damage.
Krypton-85
(85Kr)
10.76 years Inhalation in excessive concentrations can result in dizziness, nausea, vomiting, loss of consciousness, and death.
Strontium-90
(90Sr)
28 years A small amount of strontium 90 is deposited in bones and bone marrow, blood and soft tissues when ingested. Can cause bone cancer, cancer of nearby tissues, and leukaemia.
Plutonium-239
(239Pu)
24,400 years Released when a plutonium weapon is exploded. Ingestion of even a miniscule quantity is a serious health hazard and can cause lung, bone, and liver cancer. The highest doses are to the lungs, the bone marrow, bone surfaces, and liver.
Tritium
(3H)
12 years Easily ingested. Can be inhaled as a gas in the air or absorbed through the skin. Enters soft tissues and organs. Exposure to tritium increases the risk of developing cancer. Beta radiation emitted by tritium can cause lung cancer.

* ( i.e. amount of time it takes for half of the quantity of a radioactive material to decay)