A new paper, published in the Radiation Research journal, investigates the biological effects of tritiated water exposure, in particular through inhalation into the human airway. The production and use of Tritium is expected to grow in existing fission reactors and future nuclear fusion technologies, which could lead to an increase of release of the material into the environment.
This research exposed three-dimensional models of the human airway epithelium to tritiated water (HTO) for 24 hours, with a range of radioactivity levels. It found that cell viability was not decreased upon exposure to the highest activity levels, with a small effect on epithelial integrity and an inflammatory response observed that persisted after seven days. These results will be used to guide future experiments seeking to investigate the effects of tritiated products.
This publication is a collaboration between researchers from the multidisciplinary European TRANSAT project, including Professor Awadhesh Jha of the University of Plymouth, a member of the South West Nuclear Hub.
Professor Jha, Professor in Genetic Toxicology and Ecotoxicology, commented: "Plymouth's capability in tritium dosimetry in aquatic species and expertise in vitro toxicology including developments of 3-dimensional organoid cell cultures from fish supported this work".
The TRANSAT programme (TRANSversal Actions for Tritium) is a Horizon 2020 research programme bringing together 18 partners from eight European countries to improve knowledge on tritium management in fission and fusion facilities.
'A 3D In Vitro Model of the Human Airway Epithelium Exposed to Tritiated Water: Dosimetric Estimate and Cytotoxic Effects’ by G Baiocco et al in Radiation Research 195 (2021).