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RADIONUCLIDES AND TRACE METALS IN CANADIAN MOOSE NEAR URANIUM MINES: COMPARISON OF RADIATION DOSES AND FOOD CHAIN TRANSFER WITH CATTLE AND CARIBOU

Thomas, Patricia*; Irvine, James†‡; Lyster, Jane; Beaulieu, Rhys§

doi: 10.1097/01.HP.0000154008.79474.d4
Paper

Tissues from 45 moose and 4 cattle were collected to assess the health of country foods near uranium mines in northern Saskatchewan. Bone, liver, kidney, muscle and rumen contents were analyzed for uranium, radium-226 (226Ra), lead-210 (210Pb), and polonium-210 (210Po). Cesium-137 (137Cs), potassium-40 (40K), and 27 trace metals were also measured in some tissues. Within the most active mining area, 210Po in liver and muscle declined significantly with distance from tailings, possibly influenced by nearby natural uranium outcrops. Moose from this area had significantly higher 226Ra, 210Pb, 210Po, and 137Cs in some edible soft tissues vs. one control area. However, soil type and diet may influence concentrations as much as uranium mining activities, given that a) liver levels of uranium, 226Ra, and 210Po were similar to a second positive control area with mineral-rich shale hills and b) 210Po was higher in cattle kidneys than in all moose. Enhanced food chain transfer from rumen contents to liver was found for selenium in the main mining area and for copper, molybdenum and cadmium in moose vs. cattle. Although radiological doses to moose in the main mining area were 2.6 times higher than doses to control moose or cattle, low moose intakes yielded low human doses (0.0068 mSv y−1), a mere 0.3% of the dose from intake of caribou (2.4 mSv y−1), the dietary staple in the area.

*Toxicology Centre, University of Saskatchewan, 44 Campus Drive, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7N 5B3 Canada; †Population Health Unit, Athabasca, Keewatin Yatthé and Mamawetan Churchill River Health Authorities, Box 6000, La Ronge, Saskatchewan S0J 1L0 Canada; ‡ Northern Medical Services, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7K 0L4; § Unit 1, Saskatchewan Environment, 101 Railway Place, Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan S9X 1X6 Canada.

For correspondence or reprints contact: P. Thomas, 411 Lansdowne Avenue, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada S7N 1C8, or email at pat.thomas@usask.ca.

(Manuscript received 8 July 2004; revised manuscript received 18 October 2004, accepted 3 January 2005)

©2005Health Physics Society