Volume 44, Number 5, 2009ECORAD 2008 - Radioecology and Environmental Radioactivity
|Page(s)||89 - 95|
|Published online||06 June 2009|
Determination of Polonium-210 in various foodstuffs after microwave digestion
South African Nuclear Energy Corporation, PO Box 582, 0001 Pretoria, South Africa
2 North-West University, Private Bag X2046, 2735 Mmabatho, South Africa
Natural radioactivity is associated with the vast mineral resources in South Africa in such concentrations that the radionuclides from the natural uranium and thorium decay series are found to pose concern for public exposure to communities living around these areas. The radiological impact of all operations is monitored as part of the license obligations, imposed by the South African National Nuclear Regulator Act . Two main pathways giving rise to significant exposures are of interest: (a) direct ingestion resulting from regular and continuous use of contaminated water for drinking purposes, and (b) regular consumption of fish and other food products harvested from and/or grown in contaminated areas. To measure the individual nuclides in foodstuffs at the required sensitivity level in order to evaluate the yearly dose due to an individual source at a screening level of 25 μSv/a, one is faced with a required lower limit of determination (LLD) of 0.1 to 0.5 Bq/kg for certain foodstuffs. For some of the nuclides this LLD can only be obtained with radiochemical separation through acid destruction of dried foodstuffs followed by individual element separations. In this study the digestion of foodstuffs in an open-vessel microwave system followed by the determination of 210Po through radiochemical separation by spontaneous deposition onto silver discs and subsequent measurement by α-spectrometry, has been evaluated. The levels of 210Po in a variety of foodstuffs were determined and the estimated dose for the adult age group, resulting from consumption was evaluated. The dose from 210Po varied from 4 to 250 μSv/a for the various foodstuffs, with the largest intake from fish (about 0.5 Bq/day). The assessment of natural radionuclides in foods allowed us to evaluate the items that present the highest risk to the population, and compare this to the limits established by the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR). Not much data of this kind is available in South Africa. However, one would need more accurate consumption/intake values to calculate the actual yearly dose and the potential radiological impact on the public.
© EDP Sciences, 2009
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