Dusty damage

 作者:翟撇     |      日期:2019-03-08 04:14:06
By Rob Edwards THE white blood cells of workers at the Sellafield nuclear plant who have inhaled plutonium dust have damaged chromosomes. That’s the conclusion of a study funded by British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL), which runs the plant. A team at BNFL’s Westlakes Research Institute in Cumbria found that 24 workers who had inhaled plutonium dust had more than twice as many broken chromosomes in their lymphocytes as controls with little or no exposure to plutonium. The workers, most of whom have levels of plutonium in their bodies below the international safety limit of 1480 becquerels, also had twice as many chromosome breaks as they did 10 years ago (Radiation Research, vol 150, p 459). The Westlakes team suggests that the breaks are caused by alpha particles and first form in the precursor cells in bone marrow that divide to form white blood cells. It’s not clear whether the workers have a higher risk of developing leukaemia. Jan Tawn, a member of the team, says this is unlikely as the mutations that cause the disease originate in stem cells deeper in the bone marrow. But other experts aren’t so sure. Eric Wright of the Medical Research Council’s Radiation and Genome Stability Unit in Harwell, Oxfordshire, fears that mutations in precursor cells could lead to myeloid leukaemia,