Description: Among radionuclides of importance in atomic energy, /sup 3/H has relatively low toxicity. The main health and environmental worry is the possibility that significant biological effects may follow from protracted exposure to low concentrations in water. To examine this possible hazard and measure toxicity at low tritium concentrations, chronic exposure studies were done on mice and monkeys. During vulnerable developmental periods animals were exposed to /sup 3/HOH, and mice were exposed also to /sup 60/Co gamma irradiation and energy-related chemical agents. The biological endpoint measured was the irreversible loss of female germ cells. Effects from tritium were observed at surprisingly low concentrations where /sup 3/H was found more damaging than previously thought. Comparisons between tritium and gamma radiation showed the relative biological effectiveness (RBE) to be greater than 1 and to reach approximately 3 at very low exposures. For perspective, other comparisons were made: between radiation and chemical agents, which revealed parallels in action on germ cells, and between pre- and postnatal exposure, which warn of possible special hazard to the fetus from both classes of energy-related byproducts.
Date: March 2, 1979
Creator: Dobson, R.L.
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