[ RadSafe ] Cleansing nuclear fallout from the body

Susan Gawarecki loc at icx.net
Wed Nov 15 18:38:20 CST 2006

Cleansing nuclear fallout from the body
Nov. 13, 2006
Courtesy Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and World Science staff

A U.S. gov­ern­ment re­search­er is stu­dy­ing ways to clea nse the body 
of nu­cle­ar fall­out, us­ing a chem­i­cal from crab and prawn shells.

As con­cerns over nu­cle­ar pro­lif­er­a­tion grow, so do wor­ries that 
an at­tack­er could set off a suit­case-sized bomb in a ma­jor cit­y.

That would spread ra­di­o­ac­t­ive ma­te­ri­al over a wide ar­ea, 
ex­pos­ing vic­tims to var­i­ous ra­di­o­ac­t­ive el­e­ments. Some of 
these can find their way in­to the body, where they keep pro­duc­ing 
ra­di­a­tion for years and of­ten cause can­cer.

There are no ef­fec­tive meth­ods known to purge the bo­dy of this 
ma­te­ri­al, sci­en­tists say, al­though they have made some head­way on 
treat­ments that tem­per its ef­fects.

Ta­tia­na Lev­it­skaia of the Pa­cif­ic North­west Na­tion­al 
La­b­o­ra­to­ry in Rich­land, Wash., is re­search­ing a new ap­proach. 
It’s based on a wide­ly avail­a­ble ma­te­ri­al, chi­to­san, found in 
the shells.

The substance, which is non­tox­ic, is a chela­tor, or com­pound that 
at­taches it­self to me­tal­lic atoms. Co­in­ci­dent­al­ly, the word 
“che­la­tor” it­self has crab­by ori­gins; it’s de­rived from the Greek 
chele, or claw, be­cause the chem­i­cal at­tach­ment mech­an­ism is 
rem­i­nis­cent of a lob­s­ter- or crab-like grasp­ing ac­tion.

Chi­tosan can also be chem­i­cally mod­i­fied to en­hance its abil­i­ty 
to clasp ra­di­o­ac­t­ive atoms, Lev­it­s­ka­ia said. Many of the 
ra­di­o­ac­t­ive el­e­ments in nu­cle­ar fall­out are met­als, 
in­clud­ing plu­to­ni­um, ura­ni­um, stron­ti­um and co­balt.

Chi­tosan is also eas­i­ly ex­pelled from the bod­y, and sci­en­tists 
spec­u­late that af­ter link­ing to the ra­di­o­ac­t­ive sub­stances it 
could take them with it. That would pre­vent their build­up in the 
bones, liv­er, kid­neys and oth­er or­gans.

For now, Lev­it­skaia is in­ves­ti­gat­ing the ef­fec­tiveness of 
chi­to­san and si­m­i­lar sub­stances in re­mov­ing co­balt from 
lab­o­ra­to­ry rats. She re­ported on her re­search at the na­tion­al 
meet­ing of the Amer­i­can Chem­i­cal So­ci­e­ty in mid-September, 
say­ing re­sults are ex­pected this fall.

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