In order to set limits on environmental and occupational intakes of radionuclides, information is needed on their uptake and metabolism in man. Human data are very limited, particularly for long-lived alpha-emitting isotopes such as those of the actinides. Animal experiments are therefore an important source of data on the distribution of radionuclides in tissues, and the effects of factors such as subject age and the chemical form of elements on gastrointestinal absorption. The NRPB performs experimental programs using mainly rats and guinea pigs. In order to study the gastrointestinal absorption and tissue distribution of plutonium, americium and polonium, a variety of analytical techniques are employed. These include ion exchange and solvent extraction leading to alpha spectrometry and liquid scintillation counting. The investigation of low specific-activity environmental or industrial materials, and the very low bioavailability of elements such as the actinides, means that very low levels of activity have to be measured. Contamination at the dissection and tissue separation stage, as well as during the radiochemistry, has to be rigorously avoided. Where very detailed information is needed on the location of radionuclides within tissues, such as in the study of alpha-emitter distribution in the intestine, autoradiography is used. The application and relevance of different measurement techniques to animal studies will be discussed andexamples of the results presented.
- gastrointestinal absorption