Gaussian plume atmospheric modelling and radiation exposure calculations following the cremation of a deceased thyroid cancer patient treated with iodine-131

Phillipe J. Calais

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    Abstract

    Shortly after treatment with 7200 MBq of I-131, a thyroid cancer patient died and was subsequently cremated. Calculations of the atmospheric emissions of I-131 from the crematorium flue were performed using a standard atmospheric pollution Gaussian Plume Dispersal model. Estimates of whole-body and thyroid dose of those potentially exposed were made using OLINDA/EXM dosimetry software. Under the meteorological conditions prevalent at the time of the cremation, and depending on the actual release rate of the I-131, the Western Australian legal limit of 3.7 Bqm(-3) for atmospheric emissions of I-131 may have been exceeded for distances of up to 440 and 1610 m downwind of the crematorium chimney, with the maximum concentration being between 33 and 392 Bqm(-3). Assuming 16% of the inhaled I-131 was taken up in the thyroid with the balance in the remainder of the body, the radiation dose to maximally exposed individuals was calculated to be approximately 17.7 mu Sv to the thyroid and 0.04 mu Sv to the whole-body. Despite the maximum allowable atmospheric I-131 concentration of 3.7 Bqm(-3) being exceeded, as the number of people immediately downwind of the crematorium flue in the high concentration zones was very low, and considering the relatively high tolerable dose to the thyroid, the radiation dose to people was probably not a problem in this case. The local limit of 1000 MBq of I-131 for the cremation of a deceased patient is reasonable, but with adequate precautions could be significantly increased without any harmful effects to people or the environment.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)247-265
    Number of pages19
    JournalJournal of Radiological Protection
    Volume37
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017

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