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Biota dose assessment of small rodents sampled near breccia pipe uranium mines in the Grand Canyon watershed

June 6, 2019

The biotic exposure and uptake of radionuclides and potential health effects due to breccia pipe uranium mining in the Grand Canyon watershed are largely unknown. This paper describes the use of the RESRAD-BIOTA dose model to assess exposure of small rodents (n = 11) sampled at three uranium mine sites in different stages of ore production (active and postproduction). Rodent tissue and soil concentrations of naturally occurring uranium (234U, 235U, and 238U), thorium (228Th, 230Th, and 232Th), and radium (226Ra) radioisotopes were used in the dose model. The dose assessment results indicated that the potential internal, external, and total doses to rodents were below the US Department of Energy’s biota dose standard of 1 mGy d−1. As expected, tissue concentrations of 238U, 234U, and 230Th were in approximate equilibrium; however, 226Ra results in tissue were 1.25 to 5.75 times greater than 238U, 234U, and 230Th tissue results for 10 out of 11 samples. Soil at the three sites also displayed 226Ra enrichment, so it is likely that the 226Ra enrichment in the rodents was from soil via typical activities (i.e., burrowing, incidental ingestion, bathing, etc.) or by dietary uptake of translocated 226Ra. The results suggest that 226Ra is more mobile in this environment and bioaccumulates in these rodent species (e.g., in bones via the bloodstream). Internal dose accounting suggests that 226Ra is the radionuclide of most concern for rodent exposure and health.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2019
Title Biota dose assessment of small rodents sampled near breccia pipe uranium mines in the Grand Canyon watershed
DOI 10.1097/HP.0000000000001041
Authors Kelsey M. Minter, Timothy Jannik, Jo Ellen Hinck, Danielle Cleveland, Walter P. Kubilius, Wendy W. Kuhne
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Health Physics
Series Number
Index ID 70203718
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Columbia Environmental Research Center