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The time analysis and frequency distribution of caesium-137 fall-out in muscle samples


, : The time analysis and frequency distribution of caesium-137 fall-out in muscle samples. Assessment of radio-activity in man: Proceedings of the symposium on the assessment of radioactive body burdens in man held by the International Atomic Energy Agency, International Labour Organisation, and World Health Organization, Heidelberg, 11-16 May, 155-166

For low concentrations of artificial radioactivity in the body, detrimental effect will be most likely in that fraction of the population having many times the average amount. A meaningful evaluation of the nuclear fall-out hazard can only be made if the frequency distribution of radioactivity in the population is known. Attempts to determine the shape of the distribution curve from Kulp' s data on strontium-90 concentration in children's bones have met limited success because of the small sample size and lack of strontium-90-calcium equilibrium in bone. To overcome these limitations, we have measured the cesium-137 content in approximately 900 muscle samples. These tissue samples were removed during postmortem operations from January 1959 to August 1963. The use of cesium-137 as a fission product monitor assures that all members of the group, regardless of their age, were essentially in equilibrium with the radioactive environment at the time of death, The period of investigation coincides with the first weapon test moratorium and the resumption of large-scale testing in the fall of 1961. Average cesium-137 in the samples was relatively constant throughout 1959, decreased a factor of two during 1960, and remained relatively stable until the early summer of 1962. Since mid-1962 the average level of cesium-137-radioactivity in the sample population has steadily increased and was four times greater than the 1962 minimum by the summer of 1963. Time-independent histograms of the data have been assembled by fitting a polynomial to the raw data (sample radioactivity as a function of data of death). This pooled data has been tested statistically against normal, log-normal, and gamma frequency distributions. Results indicate that the experimental distribution is definitely not Gaussian and is best fitted by a gamma distribution. By using the empirically derived gamma distribution it is possible to predict the fraction of the population having N times the average activity for any level of fall-out. We have tested this model for the fourfold increase in activity since mid-1962 and have found it to predict accurately the present distribution of cesium-137 radioactivity between individual members of the sample population.

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