Cesium is a natural element found in combination with other elements in rocks, soil and dust. Cesium present in the natural environment is not radioactive and is referred to as a stable Cesium (133Cs). Nuclear explosions and the disintegration of uranium can create two forms of radioactive Cs, 134Cs and 137Cs. Both isotopes are cleaved to non-radioactive elements. 134Cs and 137Cs produce beta particles as they decompose. It takes about 2 years to halve the emission of 134Cs and about 30 years for 137Cs (this time is called half-life).
Exposure to fixed or radioactive cesium results from ingestion of contaminated food or drinking water or inhalation of contaminated air. High levels of radioactive cesium above or near the human body can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding, coma, and even death. This can happen after a nuclear accident or an atomic bomb explosion.
How does cesium enter the environment?
- Cesium in the air can travel long distances before settling on land or water.
- Most cesium compounds dissolve in water.
- In wet soils, most cesium compounds are highly soluble.
- Cesium binds strongly to moist soils and does not travel far below the soil surface.
- Radioactive decay is one way to reduce the amount of 134Cs and 137Cs in the environment.
How is someone exposed to cesium?
- One may be exposed to low levels of stable or radioactive cesium by breathing, eating foods or drinking water containing cesium.
- Foods and drinking water are the major sources of exposure to cesium.
- One may be exposed to radioactive cesium if one consumes food grown in contaminated soil or if they are physically near to a source of radioactive cesium.
- Workers in industries that process or use cesium or cesium compounds.
- People living near cesium-containing radioactive waste disposal sites.
How Can Cesium Affect Health?
The compounds of non-radioactive cesium are only slightly toxic and do not pose a significant risk to the environment. As potassium can be substituted for potassium with cesium during biochemical processes, excess cesium can lead to hypokalaemia, arrhythmia and acute cardiac arrest, but such quantities are not normally found in normal conditions. The general population is highly unlikely to be exposed to such high amounts of stable cesium as to damage their health. In experimental animals given very large amounts of cesium compounds, their behavior changed.
Exposure to large quantities of radioactive cesium can damage cells due to radiation. It can also cause acute radiation syndrome, which includes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding, coma, and even death in cases of very high exposure.
As cesium is found naturally in the environment, we cannot avoid exposure to it.
How can one determine if one has been exposed to cesium?
There are two types of exams. One is to check if there is exposure to large doses of radiation and the other is to check whether cesium is present in the body, along with the quantity present. The first type of test looks for changes in blood cells or chromosomes, but it is not possible to determine whether the radiation originates from cesium. The second type of tests includes blood, stool, urine, saliva tests.
We can measure cesium levels in blood and most biological materials.
Determination of metals is done by ICP-MS (Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry, Inductively Coupled Argon Plasma Mass Spectrometry), a method that enables the simultaneous detection of many metals. Its sensitivity and accuracy are significantly better than conventional atomic absorption, with the ability to measure metals at concentrations up to 1 in 1015 (1 in 1 quadrillion, ppq)!
Laboratory test results are the most important parameter for the diagnosis and monitoring of all pathological conditions. 70%-80% of diagnostic decisions are based on laboratory tests. Correct interpretation of laboratory results allows a doctor to distinguish "healthy" from "diseased".
Laboratory test results should not be interpreted from the numerical result of a single analysis. Test results should be interpreted in relation to each individual case and family history, clinical findings and the results of other laboratory tests and information. Your personal physician should explain the importance of your test results.
At Diagnostiki Athinon we answer any questions you may have about the test you perform in our laboratory and we contact your doctor to get the best possible medical care.