Plants. Animal and Uranium mining

1983 Dec 1;31(3):219-41.

Estimated dose to man from uranium milling via the beef/milk food-chain pathway.


One of the major pathways of radiological exposure to man from uranium milling operations is through the beef/milk food chain. Studies by various investigators have shown the extent of uptake and distribution of 238U, 234U, 230Th, 226Ra, 210Pb, and 210Po in plants and cattle. These long-lived natural radioisotopes, all nuclides of the uranium decay series, are found in concentrated amounts in uranium mill tailings. In this paper, data from these investigations are used to estimate the dose to man from consumption of beef and milk from cattle that have fed on forage contaminated with the tailings. The estimated doses from this technologically enhanced source are compared with those resulting from average dietary intake of these radionuclides from natural sources.
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]  
1989 Mar;56(3):327-40.

Health implications of radionuclide levels in cattle raised near U mining and milling facilities in Ambrosia Lake, New Mexico.


Author information

  • Environmental Improvement Division, New Mexico Health and Environment Dept., Santa Fe 87504-0968.




This study was conducted to determine radionuclide tissue levels in cattle raised near U mining and milling facilities. Ambrosia Lake, New Mexico, has been the site of extensive U mining for 30 y and contains several underground U mines, a processing mill, and two large U tailings piles. Ten cows were purchased from two grazing areas in Ambrosia Lake and ten control animals were purchased from Crownpoint, New Mexico. Muscle, liver, kidney, and bone tissue taken from these animals, and environmental samples, including water, grasses and soil collected from the animals' grazing areas, were analyzed for 238U, 234U, 230Th, 226Ra, 210Pb, and 210Po. Mean radionuclide levels in cattle tissue and environmental samples from Ambrosia Lake were higher in almost every comparison than those found in respective controls. Liver and kidney tissues were particularly elevated in 226Ra and 210Po. Radiation dose commitments from eating cattle tissue with these radionuclide concentrations were calculated. We concluded that the health risk to the public from eating exposed cattle is minimal, unless large amounts of this tissue, especially liver and kidney, are ingested.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE
Forage and rangeland plants from uranium mine soils: long-term hazard to herbivores and livestock?



Metalliferous uranium mine overburden soils integrated into arable land or stabilized by perennial rangeland plants evoke concern about the quality of crops and the exposure of grazing and thereby soil-ingesting (wildlife) herbivores to heavy metals (HM) and radionuclides.
In a 2-year trial, thirteen annual and perennial forage and rangeland plants were thus potted on, or taken from, cultivated field soil of a metalliferous hot spot near Ronneburg (Germany). The content of soil and shoot tissues in 20 minerals was determined by ICP-MS to estimate HM (and uranium) toxicities to grazing animals and the plants themselves, and to calculate the long-term persistence of the metal toxicants (soil clean-up times) from the annual uptake rates of the plants.
On Ronneburg soil elevated in As, Cd, Cu, Mn, Pb, U, and Zn, the shoot mineral content of all test plants remained preferentially in the range of “normal plant concentrations” but reached up to the fourfold to sixfold in Mn, Ni, and Zn, the 1.45- to 21.5-fold of the forage legislative limit in Cd, and the 10- to 180-fold of common herb concentrations in U. Shoot and the calculated root concentrations in Cd, Cu, Ni, and Zn accounted for phytotoxic effects at least to grasses and cereals.
Based on WHO PTWI values for the tolerable weekly human Cd and Pb intake, the expanded Cd and Pb limits for forage, and reported rates of hay, roots, and adhering-soil ingestion, the tolerable daily intake rates of 0.65/11.6 mg in Cd/Pb by a 65 kg herbivore would be surpassed by the 11- to 27/0.7- to 4.7-fold across the year, with drastic consequences for winter-grazing and thereby high rates of roots and soil-ingesting animals.
The daily intake of 5.3–31.5 mg of the alpha radiation emitter, U, may be less disastrous to short-lived herbivores.
The annual phytoextraction rates of critical HM by the tested excluder crops indicate that hundreds to thousands of years are necessary to halve the HM and (long-lived) radionuclide load of Ronneburg soil, provided the herbage is harvested at all.
It is concluded that the content in Cd/As, Cd, and Cu exclude herbage/Ronneburg soil from the commercial use as forage or pasture land soil for incalculable time spans. Caution is required, too, with the consumption of game.