The Roles Of Polonium Isotopes In The Etiology Of Lung Cancer In Cigarette Smokers And Uranium Miners

Martell, E. A. ; Sweder, K. S.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 7
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1981
INTRODUCTION Lung cancer in uranium miners has been attributed to alpha irradiation of basal cells of the bronchial epithelium by radon daughters, primarily by 7.7 MeV alphas from polonium-214 (Altshuler et al., 1964). It also has been was observed that for a given cumulative radon progeny exposure, uranium miners who smoke cigarettes have an incidence of lung cancer about 10 times higher than nonsmoking miners (Lundin et al., 1969). It has been pointed out that the large excess of lung cancer deaths among smoking uranium miners is a multiplicative effect (Doll, 1971), which suggested possible synergistic interactions between airborne radon progeny and cigarette smoking. Experimental studies of the complex pattern of interactions between radon progeny, cigarette smoke particles, and the cigarette smoking process are in progress in our laboratory. Preliminary results, reported elsewhere (Martell, 1981), implicate alpha radiation from indoor radon progeny in the etiology of lung cancer in all cigarette smokers. Cigarette smoking produces high concentrations of smoke particles of low mobility and respirable size--particles between 0.5 and 4.0 µm in aerodynamic diameter (see below). The attached fraction of indoor radon progeny is highly dependent on the air concentration of small particles from cigarette smoking and from other combustion sources (Martell, 1981). The size distribution and other properties of radon progeny associated with cigarette smoke particles enhances their effectiveness in the induction of bronchial cancer in man. In this paper we discuss the properties of radon progeny associated with cigarette smoke, the fractionation of radon progeny and modification of their aerosol properties in burning cigarettes, the role of 218Po in these processes, the production of insoluble 214Pb and 212 Pb enriched particles in burning cigarettes, and the consequent differences in the patterns of polonium isotope alpha irradiation in the bronchial epithelium of smokers. EXPERIMENTAL PROCEDURES Experimental methods used in these studies involve the use of small experimental chambers of known radon and radon progeny concentrations in combination with aerosol collection and sizing techniques and sensitive radioactivity detection methods. The use of low-level [ß-] counting for radon progeny determination, providing a measure of 214 Pb plus 214Bi activity, makes it possible to carry out chamber experiments with small radon emanation sources and relatively low air concentrations of radon and radon progeny concentrations in the range from 100 to 1,000 pCi per liter. Thus, for example, in a typical experiment we use a 10 nanocurie 226Ra solution standard in a 10 liter chamber, providing an equilibrium concentration of 1,000 pCi of radon per liter. In small sealed chambers, radon progeny plate out rapidly on the chamber walls, with steady-state concentrations of airborne progeny less than 2 percent of equilibrium levels. This is experimentally convenient because, upon introduction of high concentrations of cigarette smoke particles or small particles from other sources, there is a systematic ingrowth of attached radon progeny, providing a tagged aerosol source of known age and radon progeny composition. In some chamber experiments a 226Ra solution standard of small volume, acidified to O.1N HNO3, was used as the radon emanation source. When used with a bubbler the holdup of radon in an 8 ml volume of 226Ra solution standard at 0.1N HN03 was only 2% of the total radon in the chamber at equilibrium. For experiments with 212Pb-tagged aerosols, we used a dry Ba(228Th) stearate emanation source prepared by the method of Hursh and Lovaas (1967). 226Ra and 222Rn determinations were made by radon gas counting. The 222Rn in a sealed air or water sample is transferred, using helium gas as a carrier, successively through a dry ice cooled trap at -80°C to remove water, through ascarite to remove C02, and through a small activated charcoal trap at -80°C to collect the 222Rn. Subsequently, by heating the charcoal to 400°C, the 222Rn is transferred next to an LN2-cooled capillary trap, and finally into an alphascintillation counting cell of the type described by Lucas (1957). As already stated, radon progeny activities were determined by low-level [ß-] counting, which provides a measure of 214Pb plus 214Bi. The radon progeny samples, collected on efficient Delbag polystyrene micro-fiber filters or on impactor foils, are placed in close, sandwich geometry between two thin-walled flow counters inside shielding anticoincidence counters and a 15 cm thickness of steel shielding. This configuration provides nearly 4II geometry and a low background of only 0.25 to 0.30 cpm. Aluminum absorber was added to provide a combined thickness of absorber and counter wall exceeding 7.0 mg/cm2 to eliminate the variable contribution of 7.7 MeV alphas from 214Po. 212 Pb determinations also were carried out by low-level [ß-] counting, in this case using a combined absorber and counter wall thickness of 9.0 mg/cm2 to eliminate contribution of 8.8 MeV alphas of 21 Po. In each experiment the [ß- ]activity data were corrected for decay to an appropriate common reference time for assessment of activity distributions.
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