Plutonium hazard in respirable dust on the surface of soil

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Science  06 Aug 1976:
Vol. 193, Issue 4252, pp. 488-490
DOI: 10.1126/science.941018


Plutonium-239 in the fine particulate soil fraction of surface dust is subject to suspension by air currents and is a potential health hazard to humans who may inhale it. This respirable particulate fraction is defined as particles less than or equal to 5 micrometers. The respirable fraction of surface dust was separated by ultrasonic dispersion and a standard water-sedimentation procedure. Plutonium concentration in this fraction of off-site soils located downwind from the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant (Jefferson County, Colorado) were as much as 380 times the background concentration. It is prposed that this method of evaluation defines more precisely the potential health hazard from the respirable fraction of plutonium-contaminated soils.