A 32-year Medical Follow-up of Manhattan Project Plutonium Workers

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Abstract

Twenty-six male subjects who worked with plutonium during World War II under extraordinarily crude conditions have been followed medically for a period of 32 yr. Inhalation was the primary mode of plutonium exposure. Current estimates of the systemic plutonium depositions in these individuals range from 7 to 230 nCi. Eleven individuals have depositions greater than 40 nCi, the current maximum permissible body burden for workers. Two individuals in the group have died: one due to myocardial infarction and the other due to injuries sustained in an automobile-pedestrian accident. This mortality rate is about 50% of expected deaths based on United States white male rates. All 24 living subjects were reexamined in the period of 1975–78. No cases of cancer were diagnosed in the group except for two skin cancers that have no history or basis that relate them to plutonium exposure. The diseases and physical changes noted in the group are characteristic of a male population in their 50s and 60s. This study yields no evidence suggesting that adverse health effects have resulted from the 32 yr of exposure to the internally deposited plutonium.

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