WG: [ RadSafe ] lethal amount of Po-210

Rainer.Facius at dlr.de Rainer.Facius at dlr.de
Thu Nov 30 09:54:49 CST 2006


thank you for your reminder that physicists should restrict themselves to physics. 

As you surmised, I calculated these numbers along the mentioned assumptions. I could hide my neglect to think about that gut absorption factor by pointing out that I was talking of an "initial load" which of cause applies only to the material after absorption and distribution by the gut. 

On the other hand, in considering such nasty details one most likely would have to specify also the actual chemical compound which carried the Po because I imagine that your gut factor critically depends on the nature of that compound. Let us assume the killers selected a compound with a gut factor as close to one as possible - in order not to waste the precious poison. 

Be that as it may, you succeeded in enlarging the ball park again.

Thanks again and kind regards, Rainer

Dr. Rainer Facius
German Aerospace Center
Institute of Aerospace Medicine
Linder Hoehe
51147 Koeln
Voice: +49 2203 601 3147 or 3150
FAX:   +49 2203 61970

-----Ursprüngliche Nachricht-----
Von: Bradshaw, Keith [mailto:keith.bradshaw at niras.co.uk] 
Gesendet: Donnerstag, 30. November 2006 16:28
An: Facius, Rainer
Betreff: RE: [ RadSafe ] lethal amount of Po-210

Hi Rainer, I got this via radsafe.  This at long last looks like a carefully reasoned calculation, something notably lacking on radsafe to date.  But have you taken into account the gut absorption factor?  If that is only say 1% then it would increase your results by a factor of 100.

Keith Bradshaw
Laboratory Technical Manager
NIRAS Analytical Services
The Renaissance Centre
601 Faraday St
Birchwood Park

Tel: 01925 675643 or 01925 675366
Fax: 01925 850830

web:  www.niras.co.uk

-----Original Message-----
From: radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl [mailto:radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl]On
Behalf Of Rainer.Facius at dlr.de
Sent: 30 November 2006 14:49
To: radsafe at radlab.nl
Subject: [ RadSafe ] lethal amount of Po-210


Given the large size of the ballpark of current "guesstimates" (micro- to several milligram), I think we can rather confidently narrow down to a factor of 10 the uncertainty about the amount of Po-210 necessary to kill within an exposure time of 20 days. In doing so I ignore a possible additional chemo-toxicity since that would only decrease that amount.

To begin with, effective dose is irrelevant as it is based on radiation- and tissue weighting factors for late cancer mortality, the former relating to (large) RBE-max values, i.e., estimates of RBE for malignancy at vanishing doses.

For killing of mammalian cells we have enough data to estimate the RBE of alpha particles. At large doses this is rarely significantly larger than 2. On the other hand the protraction of exposure over 20 days might lead to a DREF (dose rate effectiveness factor) of about two so that in effect the equivalent lethal dose would be equal to the (physical) absorbed dose. 

With an LD-50,30 of about 3.3 Gy for hematopoetic, 8 Gy for pulmonary and 15 Gy for gastrointestinal failure, 8 Gy whole body exposure is within a factor of 2 a safe guess as for the lethal absorbed dose.

To deliver this 8 Gy evenly to a 75 kg body (600 J) we need in this body
6.93*10^14 decays at 5.407 MeV per decay. If the biological retention time of Po were infinite, then an initial load of 2.53 microgram Po-210
(=7.27*10^15 atoms) would suffice to produce that many decays in 20 days. The largest uncertainty for me is this biological retention time.

For a retention half-time of
01 d: 33.7 microgram (=9.65*10^16 atoms),
03 d: 11.5 microgram (=3.29*10^16 atoms),
09 d: 4.91 microgram (=1.41*10^16 atoms),
27 d: 3.23 microgram (=9.25*10^15 atoms), 

as an initial load would produce again the 6.93*10^14 decays within 20 days. This reflects the uncertainty of a factor of ten mentioned above. 

With 10^14 cells per human body these numbers correspond to some 100 to 1000 atoms per cell if evenly distributed within the body.

Unless we have reasons to postulate that Po selectively accumulates and is retained in tissue whose destruction is immaterial for the survival of the individual, deviations from an even distribution in one organ would be balanced by the opposite deviation in another organ.

On the microscopic scale the volume irradiated by an alpha particle of
5.4 MeV would at most be that of a "decay-"sphere of about 42 micrometer radius, i.e., 3.1*10^-10 l. The 6.93*10^14 decays result in a microscopic distribution where on average 2900 alpha decays occurred in this decay-sphere - i.e., a rather dense and even spatial distribution on a microscopic scale too.

Regarding chemo-toxicity I found (DOI: 10.1542/peds.2005-0172) that a 20 month old boy of 11.2 kg recovered from a severe acute Tellurium toxication (the chemically next of kin of Polonium) which 8 hours postingestion yielded a large blood concentration of 200 microgram/l.
Given that, it is hardly conceivable that the above minute Po concentrations (0.1 microgram/kg) would seriously affect a healthy adult by its chemistry. 

Let's see how my guess looks in the light of data coming up during the autopsy tomorrow.

Regards, Rainer

Dr. Rainer Facius
German Aerospace Center
Institute of Aerospace Medicine
Linder Hoehe
51147 Koeln
Voice: +49 2203 601 3147 or 3150
FAX:   +49 2203 61970
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