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Health Phys. 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.

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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.

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