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Radiat Environ Biophys. 2019 May;58(2):183-194. doi: 10.1007/s00411-019-00781-6. Epub 2019 Mar 7.

Thyroid doses due to Iodine-131 inhalation among Chernobyl cleanup workers.

Author information

1
Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, NIH, DHHS, 9609 Medical Center Drive, Room 7E548 MSC 9778, Bethesda, MD, 20892-9778, USA. drozdovv@mail.nih.gov.
2
Burnasyan Federal Medical and Biophysical Centre, 46 Zhivopisnaya Street, Moscow, 123182, Russia.
3
National Research Centre for Radiation Medicine, 53 Melnikova Street, Kyiv, 04050, Ukraine.
4
Research Institute for Nuclear Problems, Belarusian State University, 11 Bobruiskaya Street, 220050, Minsk, Belarus.
5
NCI (retired), Bethesda, USA.

Abstract

Several hundred thousand individuals, called 'cleanup workers' or 'liquidators', who took part in decontamination and recovery activities between 1986 and 1990 within the 30-km zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, were mainly exposed to external irradiation. However, those who were involved in cleanup activities during the 10-day period of atmospheric releases also received doses to the thyroid gland due to internal irradiation resulting essentially from inhalation of 131I. The paper presents the methodology and results of the calculation of individual thyroid doses for cleanup workers. The model that was used considers several factors, including the ground-level outdoor air concentrations of 131I at the locations of residence and work of the cleanup workers, the reduction of 131I activity in inhaled air associated with indoor occupancy, the time spent indoors, the breathing rate, which depends on the type of physical activity, and the possible intake of potassium iodine (KI) for iodine prophylaxis. Thyroid doses were calculated for a group of 594 cleanup workers with individual measurements of exposure rate against the neck, called 'direct thyroid measurements', that were performed from 30 April to 5 May 1986. The measured values of exposure rate were corrected to subtract the contribution of short-lived radioiodine isotopes in the thyroid to the detector response. The average thyroid dose due to 131I inhalation by the cleanup workers was estimated to be 180 mGy, while the median was 110 mGy. Most of the cleanup workers (73%) received thyroid doses ranging from 50 to 500 mGy. The highest individual dose from 131I inhalation among the cleanup workers with direct thyroid measurements was 4.5 Gy. To validate the model, the 131I activities in the thyroids that were calculated using the model were compared with those derived from the direct thyroid measurements. The mean of the ratios of measured-to-calculated activities of 131I in the thyroid was found to be 1.6 while the median of those ratios was 0.8. For 60 cleanup workers with direct thyroid measurements, a detailed description of hour-by-hour whereabouts and work history was available. For these cleanup workers the mean of the ratios of measured-to-calculated activities was found to be 1.2 and the median of those ratios was 1.0. These encouraging results suggest that the thyroid dose due to 131I inhalation could be estimated for Chernobyl cleanup workers with a reasonable degree of reliability even in the absence of direct thyroid measurements. However, this conclusion assumes that detailed information on whereabouts and work history could be obtained for those cleanup workers who were not measured.

KEYWORDS:

Chernobyl; Cleanup worker; Iodine-131; Radiation dose; Thyroid

PMID:
30847555
PMCID:
PMC6508997
[Available on 2020-05-01]
DOI:
10.1007/s00411-019-00781-6

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