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Radionuclides in the lichen-caribou-human food chain near uranium mining operations in northern Saskatchewan, Canada

https://arctichealth.org/en/permalink/ahliterature20969
Source
Environmental Health Perspectives. 1999 Jul;107(7):527-537
Publication Type
Article
Date
Jul-1999
  1 website  
Author
Thomas, PA
Gates, TE
Author Affiliation
Toxicology Centre, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. thomasp@sask.usask.ca
Source
Environmental Health Perspectives. 1999 Jul;107(7):527-537
Date
Jul-1999
Language
English
Geographic Location
Canada
Publication Type
Article
Keywords
Animals
Child
Child, Preschool
Female
Food chain
Food contamination, radioactive
Gamma Rays
Humans
Lichens - metabolism
Male
Mining
Radiation Dosage
Radioisotopes - analysis
Reindeer - metabolism
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
Risk assessment
Uranium - analysis
Abstract
The richest uranium ore bodies ever discovered (Cigar Lake and McArthur River) are presently under development in northeastern Saskatchewan. This subarctic region is also home to several operating uranium mines and aboriginal communities, partly dependent upon caribou for subsistence. Because of concerns over mining impacts and the efficient transfer of airborne radionuclides through the lichen-caribou-human food chain, radionuclides were analyzed in tissues from 18 barren-ground caribou (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus). Radionuclides included uranium (U), radium (226Ra), lead (210Pb), and polonium (210Po) from the uranium decay series; the fission product (137Cs) from fallout; and naturally occurring potassium (40K). Natural background radiation doses average 2-4 mSv/year from cosmic rays, external gamma rays, radon inhalation, and ingestion of food items. The ingestion of 210Po and 137Cs when caribou are consumed adds to these background doses. The dose increment was 0.85 mSv/year for adults who consumed 100 g of caribou meat per day and up to 1.7 mSv/year if one liver and 10 kidneys per year were also consumed. We discuss the cancer risk from these doses. Concentration ratios (CRs), relating caribou tissues to lichens or rumen (stomach) contents, were calculated to estimate food chain transfer. The CRs for caribou muscle ranged from 1 to 16% for U, 6 to 25% for 226Ra, 1 to 2% for 210Pb, 6 to 26% for 210Po, 260 to 370% for 137Cs, and 76 to 130% for 40K, with 137Cs biomagnifying by a factor of 3-4. These CRs are useful in predicting caribou meat concentrations from the lichens, measured in monitoring programs, for the future evaluation of uranium mining impacts on this critical food chain.
PubMed ID
10378999 View in PubMed
Online Resources
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