The biodistribution and toxicity of plutonium, americium and neptunium

Sci Total Environ. 1989 Jul 15;83(3):217-25. doi: 10.1016/0048-9697(89)90094-6.


In the nuclear fuel cycle the transuranic radionuclides plutonium-239, americium-241 and neptunium-237 would probably present the most serious hazard to human health if released into the environment. Despite differences in their solution chemistry the three elements exhibit remarkable similarity in their biochemical behaviour, apparently sharing similar transport pathways in blood and cells. After entering the blood the elements deposit predominantly in liver and skeleton, where retention appears to be prolonged, with half-times of the order of years. The principal late effects of all three radionuclides are the induction of cancers of bone, lung or liver. For the latter tumours the induction risk per unit radiation dose appears similar for the three radionuclides. But in bone there are indications that, due to microscopic differences in the distribution of the alpha-particle radiation dose, the efficiency of bone cancer induction may increase in the order americium-241 less than plutonium-239 less than neptunium-237. No case of human cancer induced by these radionuclides is known.

MeSH terms

  • Americium / pharmacokinetics*
  • Americium / toxicity
  • Animals
  • Bone and Bones / metabolism
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Humans
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Neptunium / pharmacokinetics*
  • Neptunium / toxicity
  • Plutonium / pharmacokinetics*
  • Plutonium / toxicity
  • Radioactive Fallout
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Uranium / pharmacokinetics


  • Radioactive Fallout
  • Uranium
  • Plutonium
  • Neptunium
  • Americium