Dose-dependent analysis of acute medical effects of mixed neutron-gamma radiation from selected severe 235U or 239Pu criticality accidents in USSR, United States, and Argentina

Health Phys. 2012 Apr;102(4):391-9. doi: 10.1097/HP.0b013e31823b4b78.


Eight of the most severe cases of acute radiation disease (ARS) known to have occurred in humans (as the result of criticality accidents) had survival times less than 120 h (herein defined as "early death"). These accidents were analyzed and are discussed with respect to the specific accident scenarios and the resulting accident-specific, mixed neutron-gamma radiation clinical dose distributions. This analysis concludes that the cardiovascular system appears to be the most critical organ system failure for causing "early death" following approximate total body, mixed gamma-neutron radiation doses greater than 40-50 Gy. The clinical data also suggest that there was definite chest dose dependence in the resulting survival times for these eight workers, who unfortunately suffered profound radiation injury and unusual clinical effects from such high dose radiation exposures. In addition, "toxemic syndrome" is correlated with the irradiation of large volumes of soft tissues. Doses to the hands or legs greater than 80-100 Gy or radiation lung injury also play significant but secondary roles in causing "early death" in accidents delivering chest doses greater than 50 Gy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Argentina
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Gamma Rays / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Neutrons / adverse effects*
  • Plutonium / adverse effects*
  • Radiation Injuries / etiology*
  • Radiation Injuries / pathology
  • Radioactive Hazard Release*
  • Time Factors
  • USSR
  • United States
  • Uranium / adverse effects*


  • Uranium
  • Plutonium