Another potential pathway for contaminants to reach humans is through the food chain. The ESER Program samples multiple agricultural products and game animals from around the INL Site and Southeast Idaho. Specifically, milk, alfalfa, grain, potatoes, lettuce, large game animals, and waterfowl are sampled. Milk is sampled throughout the year and large game animals are sampled whenever large game animals are killed onsite from vehicle collisions. Alfalfa is collected during the second quarter, lettuce and grain are sampled during the third quarter, while potatoes are collected during the third and fourth quarters. Waterfowl are collected in either the third or fourth quarter. See Table A-1, Appendix A, for more details on agricultural product and wildlife sampling. This section discusses results from milk and agricultural products samples available during the third quarter of 2017.
Twenty-seven milk samples were collected weekly in Idaho Falls and Terreton. Thirteen monthly samples were collected at four additional locations around the INL Site (Figure 17) during the second quarter of 2017. The Fort Hall dairy was not in operation during the second quarter. In addition to the local locations, commercially-available organic milk (from Colorado) was purchased as a control sample each month. All samples were analyzed for gamma emitting radionuclides, with particular emphasis on Iodine-131.
Iodine-131 was not detected in any weekly or monthly samples during the third quarter. No other human-made gamma-emitting radionuclides were found either. Data for 131I and 137Cs in milk samples are listed in Appendix C, Table C-7.
Lettuce sampling was completed during the third quarter. A total of ten samples were collected, including a commercially-available sample from a grocery store. Six lettuce samples were collected from portable planters at Atomic City, EFS, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Tower, Howe, Idaho Falls, and Monteview. In 2017, soil from the vicinity of the sampling locations was used in the planters. This soil was amended with potting soil as a gardener in the region would typically do when they grow their lettuce. In addition to the portable samplers, samples were obtained from gardens in Shelley and Sugar City.
No human-made gamma-emitting radionuclides were found in any of the samples. Strontium-90 was detected in all of the samples analyzed, except the sample from Shelley which was well below the detection limit. Strontium-90 is present in the environment as a residual of fallout from aboveground nuclear weapons testing, which occurred between 1945 and 1980. This is the likely source for the measured results. Data for 137Cs and 90Sr in all lettuce samples taken during the third quarter are listed in Appendix C, Table C-8.
Muscle tissue was collected from three game animals, a mule deer and two pronghorn. Liver tissue was also collected from two of the game animals. No manmade gamma-emitting radionuclides were detected (Appendix C, Table C-10).
Radiation has always been a part of the natural environment in the form of cosmic radiation, cosmogenic radionuclides [carbon-14 (14C), Beryllium-7 (7Be), and tritium (3H)], and naturally occurring radionuclides, such as potassium-40 (40K), and the thorium, uranium, and actinium series radionuclides which have very long half lives. Additionally, human-made radionuclides were distributed throughout the world beginning in the early 1940s. Atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons from 1945 through 1980 and nuclear power plant accidents, such as the Chernobyl accident in the former Soviet Union during 1986, have resulted in fallout of detectable radionuclides around the world. This natural and manmade global fallout radioactivity is referred to as background radiation. MORE
The primary concern regarding radioactivity is the amount of energy deposited by particles or gamma radiation to the surrounding environment. It is possible that the energy from radiation may damage living tissue. When radiation interacts with the atoms of a given substance, it can alter the number of electrons associated with those atoms (usually removing orbital electrons). This is called ionization. MORE