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 fourth quarter. 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 first quarter of 2018.
Milk samples were collected weekly at Idaho Falls and Terreton. Monthly samples were collected at five other locations around the INL Site (Figure 11) during the first quarter of 2018. 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.
Figure 11. ESER agriculture product sampling locations. Milk is collected at locations identified by blue circles.
Neither 131I nor 137Cs was detected in any weekly or monthly samples during the first 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-6.
Muscle tissue was collected from one game animal, an elk, during the first quarter. No manmade gamma-emitting radionuclides were detected (Appendix C, Table C-7).
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