From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Iodine-131 (131I), also called radioiodine (though many other radioactive isotopes of this element are known), is an important radioisotope of iodine. It has a radioactive decay half life of about eight days. Its uses are mostly medical and pharmaceutical. It also plays a role as a major radioactive hazard present in nuclear fission products, and was a significant contributor to the health effects from open-air atomic bomb testing in the 1950s, and from the Chernobyl disaster, as well as being a threatening presence today in the Japanese nuclear crisis. This is because I-131 is a major uraniumplutonium and indirectly thorium fission product, comprising nearly 3% of the total products of fission (by weight).

Due to its mode of beta decay, iodine-131 is notable for causing mutation and death in cells which it penetrates, and other cells up to several millimeters away. For this reason, high doses of the isotope are sometimes paradoxically less dangerous than low doses, since they tend to kill thyroid tissues which would otherwise become cancerous as a result of the radiation. For example, children treated with moderate dose of I-131 for thyroid adenomas had a detectable increase in thyroid cancer, but children treated with a much higher dose did not. Similarly most studies of very high dose I-131 for treatment of Graves disease have failed to find any increase in thyroid cancer, even though there is linear increase in thyroid cancer risk with I-131 absorption at moderate doses.[1] Thus, iodine-131 is increasingly less employed in small doses in medical use (especially in children), but increasingly is used only in large and maximal treatment doses, as a way of killing targeted tissues. This is known as “therapeutic use.”

Effects of exposure

Iodine in food is absorbed by the body and preferentially concentrated in the thyroid where it is needed for the functioning of that gland. When 131I is present in high levels in the environment from radioactive fallout, it can be absorbed through contaminated food, and will also accumulate in the thyroid. As it decays, it may cause damage to the thyroid. The primary risk from exposure to high levels of 131I is the chance occurrence of radiogenic thyroid cancer in later life. Other risks include the possibility of non-cancerous growths and thyroiditis.[citation needed]

The risk of thyroid cancer in later life appears to diminish with increasing age at time of exposure. Most risk estimates are based on studies in which radiation exposures occurred in children or teenagers. When adults are exposed, it has been difficult for epidemiologists to detect a statistically significant difference in the rates of thyroid disease above that of a similar but otherwise unexposed group.[citation needed]

The risk can be mitigated by taking iodine supplements, raising the total amount of iodine in the body and therefore reducing uptake and retention in tissues and lowering the relative proportion of radioactive iodine. Unfortunately, such supplements were not distributed to the population living nearest to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant after the disaster,[7] though they were widely distributed to children in Poland.

Within the USA, the highest 131I fallout doses occurred during the 1950s and early 1960s to children who consumed fresh sources of milk contaminated as the result of above ground testing of nuclear weapons.[8] The National Cancer Institute provides additional information on the health effects from exposure to 131I in fallout,[9] as well as individualized estimates, for those born before 1971, for each of the 3070 counties in the USA. The calculations are taken from data collected regarding fallout from the nuclear weapons tests conducted at the Nevada Test Site.[10]

The Japanese nuclear disaster Fukushima I nuclear accidents of March 2011 resulted in significantly elevated iodine-131 levels in foodstuffs from spinach to tap water. These levels have been detected near the plant and as far away as Tokyo.[citation needed] A peak of 190 Becquerels per liter was recorded in a Tokyo water purification facility.[citation needed] On 27 March 2011, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported that 131I was detected in very low concentrations in rainwater from samples collected in Massachusetts, USA, and that this likely originated from the Fukushima power plant.[11] Farmers near the plant dumped raw milk, while testing in the United States found 0.8 pico-curies per liter of iodine-131 in a milk sample, but the radiation levels were 5,000 times lower than the FDA’s “defined intervention level.” The levels were expected to drop relatively quickly [12]

What is Radioactivity?


Radioactivity is a very interesting phenomenon in nature. Classical Electromagnetism cannot explain radioactivity. It’s a spontaneous and random phenomenon whereby nuclei of certain chemical elements like Uranium, radiate gamma rays (high frequency electromagnetic radiation), beta particles (electrons or positrons) and alpha particles (Helium Nuclei).


By the emission of these particles and radiation, the unstable nucleus gets converted into a stabler nucleus. This is called radioactive decay. In the list of radioactive elements, all the elements which undergo decay are listed. Find more information on radioactivity through the articles, ‘What is radioactivity?’ and meaning of radioactivity decay.

Types of Radioactive Decay
This decay may occur in any of the following three ways:

  • Alpha Decay: Nucleus emits a helium nuclei (called an Alpha Particle) and gets converted to another nucleus with atomic number lesser by 2 and atomic weight lesser by 4.
  • Beta Decay: Beta decay could be of two types. Either through emission of an electron or positron (the antiparticle of electron). Electron emission causes an increase in the atomic number by 1, while positron emission causes a decrease in the atomic number by 1.
  • Gamma Decay: Gamma decay just changes the energy level of the nucleus.



From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Caesium-137 (137 55Cs, Cs-137) is a radioactive isotope of caesium which is formed as a fission product by nuclear fission.

It has a half-life of about 30.17 years, and decays by beta emission to a metastable nuclear isomer of barium-137barium-137m (137mBa, Ba-137m). (About 95 percent of the nuclear decayleads to this isomer. The other 5.0 percent directly populates the ground state, which is stable.) Ba-137m has a half-life of about 153 seconds, and it is responsible for all of the emissions ofgamma rays. One gram of caesium-137 has an activity of 3.215 terabecquerel (TBq).[2]


Health risk of radioactive caesium

Caesium-137 reacts with water producing a water-soluble compound (caesium hydroxide), and the biological behavior of caesium is similar to that of potassiumand rubidium. After entering the body, caesium gets more or less uniformly distributed throughout the body, with higher concentration in muscle tissues and lower in bones. The biological half-life of caesium is rather short at about 70 days.[7] Experiments with dogs showed that a single dose of 3800 ?Ci/kg (140 MBq/kg, or approximately 44 ?g/kg) is lethal within three weeks.[8]

Accidental ingestion of caesium-137 can be treated with Prussian blue, which binds to it chemically and then speeds its expulsion from the body.[9]

The improper handling of caesium-137 gamma ray sources can lead to release of this radio-isotope and radiation injuries. Perhaps the best-known case is theGoiânia accident, in which an improperly-disposed-of radiation therapy system from an abandoned clinic in the city of GoiâniaBrazil, was scavenged from a junkyard, and the glowing caesium salt sold to curious, uneducated buyers. This led to multiple deaths and serious injuries from radiation exposure.

Caesium gamma-ray sources that have been encased in metallic housings can be mixed-in with scrap metal on its way to smelters, resulting in production of steel contaminated with radioactivity.[10]

One notable example was the Acerinox accident of 1998, when the Spanish recycling company Acerinox accidentally melted down a mass of radioactive caesium-137 that came from a gamma-ray generator.[11]

In 2009, a Chinese cement company in China (the Shaanxi Province) was demolishing an old, unused cement plant and it did not follow the standards for handling radioactive materials. This caused some caesium-137 from a measuring instrument to be melted down along with eight truckloads scrap metal on its way to a steel mill. Hence, the radioactive caesium was melted down into the steel.[12]



From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Strontium (play /?str?nti?m/) is a chemical element with the symbol Sr and the atomic number 38. An alkaline earth metal, strontium is a soft silver-white or yellowish metallic element that is highly reactive chemically. The metal turns yellow when exposed to air. It occurs naturally in the minerals celestine and strontianite. The 90Sr isotope is present inradioactive fallout and has a half-life of 28.90 years. Both strontium and strontianite are named after Strontian, a village in Scotland near which the mineral was first discovered.

Effect on the human body

The human body absorbs strontium as if it were calcium. Due to the elements being sufficiently similar chemically, the stable forms of strontium might not pose a significant health threat—in fact, the levels found naturally may actually be beneficial (see below) — but the radioactive 90Sr can lead to various bone disorders anddiseases, including bone cancer. The strontium unit is used in measuring radioactivity from absorbed 90Sr.

A recent in-vitro study conducted the NY College of Dental Sciences using strontium on osteoblasts showed marked improvement on bone-building osteoblasts.[36]

The drug strontium ranelate, made by combining strontium with ranelic acid, was found to aid bone growth, increase bone density, and lessen vertebral, peripheral and hip fractures.[37][38] Women receiving the drug showed a 12.7% increase in bone density. Women receiving a placebo had a 1.6% decrease. Half the increase in bone density (measured by x-ray densitometry) is attributed to the higher atomic weight of Sr compared with calcium, whereas the other half a true increase in bone mass. Strontium ranelate is registered as a prescription drug in Europe and many countries worldwide. It needs to be prescribed by a doctor, delivered by a pharmacist, and requires strict medical supervision. Currently (early 2007), it is not available in Canada or the United States.

There is a long history of medical research regarding strontium’s benefits, beginning in the 1950s. Studies indicate a lack of undesirable side-effects.[39][40][41][42][43][44]Several other salts of strontium such as strontium citrate or strontium carbonate are available in the United States under the Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act of 1994, providing close to the recommended strontium content, about 680 milligrams per day, of strontium ranelate. Their long-term safety and efficacy have not been evaluated on humans in large-scale medical trials.[citation needed]



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