A study published in March of 2016 found insoluble cesium lodged in the lungs of some of the highly exposed Fukushima disaster response workers. This group of seven workers who had exposures from the initial disaster that were over 250 mSv were monitored by Japan’s National Institute of Radiological Sciences (NIRS).
They found that most of the workers cesium 134 and 137 declined at an expected rate due to radioactive decay and biological half life where the body purges the substances through normal processes. NIRS discovered that around 500 days after the initial exposures, the rate of contamination decline slowed. They were able to rule out new ongoing contamination such as consuming contaminated foods. After doing additional scans they found most of that persistent cesium contamination resided in the workers lungs.
The study concludes that insoluble cesium particles lodged in the workers lungs, preventing them from leaving the body through normal processes.
“The subjects seem to have inhaled insoluble caesium particles, even though it was only a small amount. At present, it is more plausible that the retention curves reported here were due to inhalation of a mixture of type F caesium (soluble particle) and type S caesium (insoluble particle).”
This finding is significant as it shows how the various kinds of insoluble radioactive cesium materials discovered after the initial disaster, both black substances and the glass spheres could contaminate the human body. Some of the studies of these substances found they were small enough to inhale. These two discoveries may help solve why some people experienced prolonged health problems after the disaster even though their initial body scans (if they even received one) showed levels that were expected to decline sufficiently over time.
There were also reports in 2011 of people suffering excessive nose bleeds, sore throats and flu like symptoms. These were dismissed as hypochondria or “radiophobia” by officials at the time. These newer findings may indicate that some of these reported instances could have been actual radiation exposure cases.
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