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Medical How accurate is wikipedia when it comes to radiotoxicology?

  1. Jan 8, 2013 #1
    So the wikipedia article on plutonium the author(s) claim that plutonium-239 is not as toxic as radium-226. It is my understanding that plutonium is indeed the most toxic chemical element ; and that Pu-239 is the deadliest known radiological toxin. Is this is incorrect, I'm eager to some actual data comparing Pu-239 toxicity to that of other radioisotopes.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 11, 2013 #2


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    Afraid I can't answer your question directly, but I can address it more generally.

    Wiki is good and sometimes great.
    Wiki is correct.
    Wiki is horrible and biased.
    Wiki is flat-out wrong.

    All these statements are true at the same time. And for any given topic, you have no idea where you are on the spectrum.

    Wiki is a good starting point when researching a topic, but you mustn't use it as a primary reference.
  4. Jan 11, 2013 #3


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    Wikipedia does not have rigorous quality control, and if anyone can contribute, then in some cases, the information presented may be incorrect.

    Radium-226 is more radiotoxic than Pu-239, because Ra-226 has a shorter half-life, or higher specific activity. It is closer chemically to calcium so would more easily taken into the body, and particularly in bone. Although actinides are 'bone-seekers', I believe Ra is more easily taken up by the skeleton than Pu. The longer the half-life, the more likely the element is to be excreted from the body.

    Here is a list of elements by radiotoxicity - http://www.unb.ca/safety/RSM_pdf/Appendix D.pdf

    Elements like Cf, Cm and Am are more radiotoxic than Pu.
    For example - http://hps.org/publicinformation/ate/q650.html [Broken]
    This has some discussion on some radionucides and their effects, but unfortunately, not the specific nuclides in the OP.

    In addition to half-life, one also has to look at the alpha particle energy, beta particle energy in some cases, and gamma energy, of the nuclide and it's daughters.

    With respect to radiotoxicity, one must also consider the ingestion dose factors, which have to do the biological activity (uptake/excretion and distribution) within a body.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  5. Jan 19, 2013 #4
    I always thought was the most lethal radioactive element.
  6. Feb 8, 2013 #5
    Toxicity is dependent on how its gets into your body and whether or not its in a soluble form.
    For instance:
    If you swallow an insoluble compound, it tends to just go right through you and end up in your faeces.
    The same insoluble material inhaled (and less than 10 microns diameter) will tend to stay in the lung. Do some reading on the range of alpha particles of diffrent energies and you will find the range of alpha particles in the lung from radioactive dust is such that a lot of the energy is deposited in the nucleus of the cells of the lung epithelium - a recipe for disaster.
    This is all Health Physics 101.
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