Tawn, E. J., Whitehouse, C. A. and Riddell, A. E. FISH Chromosome Analysis of Plutonium Workers from the Sellafield Nuclear Facility. Radiat. Res. 165, 592–597 (2006).
Chromosome analysis using a single-color FISH technique to paint three pairs of chromosomes was undertaken on a group of 46 retired plutonium workers with assessed bone marrow doses >60 mSv, 34 of whom were categorized as having robust dosimetry and 12 for whom internal doses were considered less reliable. Comparisons were made with a group of 34 workers with negligible radiation exposure and a group of 34 workers with similar recorded external γ-ray doses but negligible internal dose. The simple translocation frequency of 17.65 ± 1.96 × 10−3 per genome equivalent for the 34 plutonium workers with robust dosimetry was significantly increased in comparison with that of 10.06 ± 1.16 × 10−3 per genome equivalent for the unirradiated control group (P = <0.001) and that of 13.55 ± 1.43 × 10−3 per genome equivalent for the group with similar external γ-ray exposure (P = 0.012). Thus, although in vitro studies have indicated that the majority of α-particle-irradiated cells suffer complex non-transmissible chromosome damage, in vivo a significant proportion survive with simple exchanges that can be passed on to descendant cells. In contrast, the three groups demonstrated no significant differences in stable complex aberrations. No evidence of an increase in dicentrics or unstable complex aberrations associated with plutonium exposure was observed, and it can therefore be assumed that there is little, if any, ongoing irradiation of mature lymphocytes. The translocation frequency of 12.08 ± 1.92 × 10−3 per genome equivalent for the group of 12 plutonium workers with less reliable internal dosimetry could adequately be accounted for by age and external dose and indicates that the internal bone marrow doses are likely to have been overestimated. Cytogenetic analysis can therefore make a valuable contribution to the validation of internal doses from plutonium deposition.