Actinide-contaminated Skin: Comparing Decontamination Efficacy of Water, Cleansing Gels, and DTPA Gels

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Abstract

Skin contamination by alpha-emitting actinides is a risk to workers during nuclear fuel production and reactor decommissioning. Also, the list of items for potential use in radiological dispersal devices includes plutonium and americium. The actinide chemical form is important and solvents such as tributyl phosphate, used to extract plutonium, can influence plutonium behavior. This study investigated skin fixation and efficacy of decontamination products for these actinide forms using viable pig skin in the Franz cell diffusion system. Commonly used or recommended decontamination products such as water, cleansing gel, diethylenetriamine pentaacetic acid, or octadentate hydroxypyridinone compound 3,4,3‐LI(1,2‐HOPO), as well as diethylenetriamine pentaacetic acid hydrogel formulations, were tested after a 2‐h contact time with the contaminant. Analysis of skin samples demonstrated that more plutonium nitrate is bound to skin as compared to plutonium-tributyl phosphate, and fixation of americium to skin was also significant. The data show that for plutonium-tributyl phosphate all the products are effective ranging from 80 to 90% removal of this contaminant. This may be associated with damage to the skin by this complex and suggests a mechanical/wash-out action rather than chelation. For removal of americium and plutonium, both Trait Rouge cleansing gel and diethylenetriamine pentaacetic acid are better than water, and diethylenetriamine pentaacetic acid hydrogel is better than Osmogel. The different treatments, however, did not significantly affect the activity in deeper skin layers, which suggests a need for further improvement of decontamination procedures. The new diethylenetriamine pentaacetic acid hydrogel preparation was effective in removing americium, plutonium, and plutonium-tributyl phosphate from skin; such a formulation offers advantages and thus merits further assessment.

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