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May 23, 1977

The Plutonium Controversy

JAMA. 1977;237(21):2286. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270480026004

To the Editor.—  May I draw attention to an apparent discrepancy of some importance between a conclusion drawn by Dr Herbert L. Volchok (236:2941,1976) and results of my own study?1Dr Volchok implies that there is a rapid decrease in the risk to health of residents of areas contaminated with plutonium due to movement of plutonium down into the "soil column" resulting in "less plutonium being available to forces of resuspension with time," therefore decreasing potential human exposure. He cites unpublished data (P. W. Krey) concerning soil contamination around the Rocky Flats plant.We conducted a survey of off-site land near the Rocky Flats plant in 1975 and found levels of plutonium as high as 170 disintegrations per minute per gram (80 pCi/g) in the respirable dust on the surface of the soil on land that has been proposed for residential development. While there may be a movement of