I’ve received comments about what I’ve written on risks from low levels of plutonium in the environment and that I would be comfortable visiting the wildlife refuge at the former Rocky Flats site with my family. One worrisome assertion was that plutonium “was designed to kill.” Plutonium was generated in large quantities in a natural underground “reactor” in Africa that was dubbed the “Oklo Phenomenon“ a bit under two billion years ago. I agree that plutonium and other elements (i.e., arsenic) are toxic at some exposure level, but I can’t think that Mother Nature designed them to kill.
Another commenter referred to “Mortality Among Plutonium and Other Radiation Workers at a Plutonium Weapons Facility” by Gregg S. Wilkinson, et al. (The copyrighted article is online in the February 1987 edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology.) The responder points out Rocky Flats workers with higher levels of occupational plutonium exposure had a somewhat higher incidence of a few types of cancers than were experienced by the general population. My primary focus was on the abstract of the report that says, “Mortality among 5413 white males who were employed at least two years…(at Rocky Flats) was investigated to measure risks from exposures to low levels of plutonium and external radiation. When compared with US death rates, fewer deaths than expected were found for all causes of death (and) all cancers…” That remarkable result was reached despite the fact that 26 percent of the workers had body burdens of plutonium from occupational exposure.
I don’t read the report to be a basis for some of the dire warnings being issued about the risks to people who chose to spend a few hours visiting the refuge, since the average person working in the industrial area for at least two years was not at increased risk. In fact, people visiting the area west of the former industrial area will be exposed to about the same amounts of plutonium as is in their back yards from worldwide fallout. Anyone wanting to minimize their exposure to plutonium should avoid mountains where snow washed out higher levels of fallout.
I will post dissenting comments if they are civil, to the point, and factual. Other than that, I intend to move on to subjects that are more enjoyable.