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J Environ Radioact. 2009 Jun;100(6):522-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvrad.2009.02.002. Epub 2009 Apr 11.

High levels of natural radioactivity in biota from deep-sea hydrothermal vents: a preliminary communication.

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  • 1Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire (IRSN), DEI/SESURE BP 330, La Seyne sur mer, France.


Hydrothermal deep-sea vent fauna is naturally exposed to a peculiar environment enriched in potentially toxic species such as sulphides, heavy metals and natural radionuclides. It is now well established that some of the organisms present in such an environment accumulate metals during their lifespan. Though only few radionuclide measurements are available, it seems likely that hydrothermal vent communities are exposed to high natural radiation doses. Various archived biological samples collected on the East Pacific Rise and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in 1996, 2001 and 2002 were analysed by ICP-MS in order to determine their uranium contents ((238)U, (235)U and (234)U). In addition (210)Po-Pb were determined in 2 samples collected in 2002. Vent organisms are characterized by high U, and Po-Pb levels compared to what is generally encountered in organisms from outside hydrothermal vent ecosystems. Though the number of data is low, the results reveal various trends in relation to the site, the location within the mixing zone and/or the organisms' trophic regime.

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