This paper addresses the noticeable increase of 137Cs activity concentrations in soil and fallout in the area surrounding Zagreb (Croatia) that occurred at the time of the 2011 Fukushima accident. This topic is important for public health as 137Cs is highly toxic due to its long half-life of radioactive decay and chemical similarity to potassium. 137Cs concentrations in fallout were much greater than in soil, but remained present longer in the latter. While being detectable in our measurements, 137Cs did not spread through the food chain in amounts exceeding the maximum allowed level of radioactive food contamination. However, more thorough and consistent measurements need to be done in order to establish the precise activity trends of 137Cs in Zagreb soil and fallout.
This paper tackles the issue of interpreting the number of airborne particles adsorbed on a filter through which a certain volume of sampled air has been pumped. This number is equal to the product of the pumped volume and particle concentration in air, but only if the concentration is constant over time and if there is no substance decomposition on the filter during sampling. If this is not the case, one must take into account the inconstancy of the concentration and the decay law for a given substance, which is complicated even further if the flow rate through the filter is not constant. In this paper, we develop a formalism which considers all of these factors, resulting in a single, compact expression of general applicability. The use of this expression is exemplified by addressing a case of sampling airborne radioactive matter, where the decay law is already well known. This law is combined with three experimentally observed time dependence of the flow rate and two models for the time dependence of the particle concentration. We also discuss the implications of these calculations for certain other situations of interest to environmental studies.
Quality Assurance in Gamma-Ray Spectrometry of Seabed Sediments
This article brings the results of a method for quality assurance in gamma-ray spectrometry of seabed sediments. Sediments were collected in selected locations of the South and Middle Adriatic Sea using grab and corer tools. Using our own experimental design, we determined the self-attenuation factors of selected samples. The article also discusses sources of uncertainty in gamma-ray spectrometry, which is another important issue in quality assurance. Together with self-attenuation correction sources of uncertainty are used to calculate the activity concentration for a given sample. The presented procedure demonstrates how a gamma-ray spectrometry experiment should be approached in order to properly account for errors and uncertainties specific to a particular sample.
This article gives an overview of physical concepts important for radioecology and radiotoxicology to help bridge a gap between non-physicists in these scientific disciplines and the intricate language of physics. Relying on description and only as much mathematics as necessary, we discuss concepts ranging from fundamental natural forces to applications of physical modelling in phenomenological studies. We first explain why some atomic nuclei are unstable and therefore transmute. Then we address interactions of ionising radiation with matter, which is the foundation of both radioecology and radiotoxicology. We continue with relevant naturally occurring and anthropogenic radionuclides and their properties, abundance in the environment, and toxicity for the humans and biota. Every radioecological or radiotoxicological assessment should take into account combined effects of the biological and physical half-lives of a radionuclide. We also outline the basic principles of physical modelling commonly used to study health effects of exposure to ionising radiation, as it is applicable to every source of radiation but what changes are statistical weighting factors, which depend on the type of radiation and exposed tissue. Typical exposure doses for stochastic and deterministic health effects are discussed, as well as controversies related to the linear no-threshold hypothesis at very low doses.
For years, the town of Slavonski Brod in Croatia has been facing serious problems with air pollution, which is usually attributed to an oil refinery across the Sava River in Bosnia and Herzegovina. While the air quality is being monitored rigorously with regard to nonradioactive matter, no attention has been paid to the possibility of a coincidental radioactive pollution. This study is the first to have addressed this issue. We measured ambient dose rate equivalents at 150 sites and found that none exceeded 120 nSv h-1, while the average was 80 nSv h-1. Gamma-ray spectrometry of the collected river water and soil samples did not reveal any unusual radioactivity either. In other words, we have found no evidence of radioactive pollution that would endanger the health of the residents of Slavonski Brod.
Phosphogypsum (PG) is a waste product (residue) from the production of phosphoric acid characterized by technologically enhanced natural radioactivity. Croatia’s largest PG deposition site is situated at the edge of Lonjsko Polje Nature Park, a sensitive ecosystem possibly endangered by PG particles. This field study investigates two aspects relevant for the general radiological impact of PG: risk assessment for the environment and risk assessment for occupationally exposed workers and local inhabitants. Activity concentrations of natural radionuclides (238U, 235U, 232Th, 226Ra, 210Pb, and 40K) were measured in the PG (at the deposition site), soil, and grass samples (in the vicinity of the site). The ERICA Assessment Tool was used to estimate the radiological impact of PG particles on non-human biota of the Lonjsko Polje Nature Park. The average annual effective dose for occupationally exposed workers was 0.4 mSv which was within the worldwide range.