Agent Name


CAS Number




Major Category



Plutonium and compounds;




"A heavy, radioactive, manmade metallic element with atomic number 94. Its most important isotope is fissile plutonium-239, which is produced by neutron irradiation of uranium-238. It exists in only trace amounts in nature." [NRC Glossary]


Used to generate heat and electricity; Used in pacemaker batteries; (Pu-238); Used as a fuel for nuclear reactors and bombs (Pu-239); [Merck Index # 7541] In 1948-1958, the Mayak Production Association produced plutonium nuclear weapons in the Soviet Union. About 21,500 workers were exposed to radiation with the highest dose >1000 rad and the average dose about 80 rad. A study found 16 osteosarcomas, 8 chondrosarcomas, and 9 soft tissue sarcomas. Most of these cancers occurred 20 or more years after first exposure. "The plutonium exposures received by the Mayak workers were enormous and much larger than experienced anywhere else in the world. Other studies of workers exposed to substantially lower plutonium doses have found no excess bone cancers." [Schottenfeld, p. 950]


In acute studies of laboratory animals, plutonium causes radiation pneumonitis and bone marrow injury. Surviving animals have increased risk for lung fibrosis and cancer. [HSDB] Plutonium workers exposed to >10 Sv after acute inhalation exposures had increased risk for lung fibrosis. The inhalation exposures were "readily traced back to accidents or equipment failure" and the "clinical significance of plutonium-induced fibrosis remains to be determined." [PMID 16038583] Plutonium is a toxic metal that may damage the kidneys. [EPA Radionuclides] "There is sufficient evidence in humans that inhalation of plutonium-239 aerosols causes lung cancer, liver cancer and bone sarcoma. Exposure to plutonium-239 also entails exposure to plutonium-240 and other isotopes." [IARC] Most Important Radionuclide: Pu-239 Source: Neutron irradiation of Pu-238 Half-Life: 24,000 years Effective Half-Life: 197 years Specific Activity: 0.63 Ci/gm Decay Mode: Alpha GI Absorption: 0.05% Lung Clearance Half-Time: Years for PuO2; Weeks for all other compounds; Critical Organ: Bone Internal Toxicity: Very High Annual Limit on Intake: 0.000006 mCi Radiation Energy (MeV): Alpha 5.16 (74%); Alpha 5.14 (15%) Reported Radiation Accidents: 4 accidents with 6 injuries (Pu-239 and Pu-238) and 1 death (Pu-235); [See Glossary for references.] See "Radiation, ionizing."

Reference Link

Plutonium | Radiation Protection Program | US EPA

Exposure Assessment


Reference Link

ATSDR - ToxFAQs - Plutonium

Adverse Effects
Toxic Pneumonitis




IARC Carcinogen

Known Carcinogen

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Health Studies

Human Health Effects from Hazardous Substances Data Bank:

Toxicity Information


Chemical Information

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Biomedical References

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Related Information in HazMap

Occupational diseases associated with exposure to this agent: