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Abstract  

Internal contamination with radioactive materials of mining workers is a common problem in Brazil. This is caused by the presence of uranium, thorium, and their natural decay series associated with the mined ore. The clear examples are the workers at the niobium mine located in the state of Goiás. The niobium is associated with considerable quantities of uranium and thorium, but the mine is not legally subject to radiation protection requirements.Twenty mine workers were evaluated using in vitro bioassay techniques (urine and feces). The fecal samples were analyzed by alpha spectrometry using the method developed in the Bioassay Laboratory of the Instituto de Radioproteção e Dosimetria/CNEN which evaluates thorium and uranium isotopes simultaneously. Minor modifications were introduced to measure a higher level of activity, around 1 Bq of uranium per sample. The urine samples were analyzed by alpha spectrometry for thorium and by fluorimetry for uranium. The results obtained show that a control of the occupationally-exposed workers is necessary.

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Abstract  

The decay products of uranium and thorium natural series are widely distributed in all the terrestrial crust. Their concentrations are considerable in the phosphates utilized as fertilizer in the Brazilian agriculture. In this work analysis was performed on238U,234U,232Th,238Th,226Ra and210Po in 22 Brazilian tobacco samples. The results showed238U and234U are in isotopic activity equilibrium (0.5±0.2 mBq/g). The equilibrium was not reached in the case of thorium isotopes: the228/232Th ratio was about 6.4. The average values obtained were 34.3 mBq/g for228Th and 5.4 mBq/g for232Th. The226Ra values were higher than its radioactive precursor,238U. This can be explained by the high affinity of radium to tobacco plant and the uranium removal during physical and chemical processes. The high concentration of210Po (20 mBq/g) in tobacco samples may be due to radon daughter products being electrically charged and then attaching themselves to inert dusts, which then become attached to tiny hairs on tobacco leaves. The results of this work are consistent with values presented in specialized literature.

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Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry
Authors: L. Julião, A. Azeredo, M. Santos, D. Melo, B. Dantas, and J. Lipsztein

Abstract  

This study is a comparison between bioassay data of thorium-exposed workers from two different facilities. The first of these facilities is a monazite sand extraction plant. Isotopic equilibrium between232Th and228Th was not observed in excreta samples of these workers. The second facility is a gas mantle factory. An isotopic equilibrium between232Th and228Th was observed in excreta samples. Whole body counter measurements have indicated a very low intake of thorium through inhalation. As the concentration of thorium in feces was very high we concluded that the main pathway of entrance of the nuclide was ingestion, mainly via contamination through dirty hands.The comparison between the bioassay results of workers from the two facilities shows that the lack of Th isotopic equilibrium observed in the excretion from the workers at the monazite sand plant possibly occurred due to an additional Th intake by ingestion of contaminated fresh food. This is presumably because228Ra is more efficiently taken up from the soil by plants, in comparison to228Th or232Th, and subsequently,228Th grows in from its immediate parent,228Ra.

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