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Uranium Radiation Exposure

(last updated 5 Mar 2004)

These pages provide information needed for an assessment of typical exposure situations to radiation from uranium.

Contents:

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Introduction

Human tissue exposed to radiation may develop cancer. The radiation from each of the nuclides present in the uranium decay series affects the human health in a different way, depending on:

The activity and composition of the nuclides present may even change with time, due to transportation or migration processes, as well as from decay or ingrowth of nuclides. This is of particular concern, since each of the uranium decay series contains a gazeous member - a nuclide of radon.

For each nuclide and for each exposure situation, dose coefficients are available which allow to determine the radiation dose resulting from exposure to a certain amount of activity. At present, the dose coefficients of ICRP60/61 new window (1990) are widely used, while revised dose coefficients have been presented for workers in ICRP68 new window (1995) and for the public in ICRP72 new window (1997). The ICRP68/72 dose factors show significant differences from those in ICRP60/61: The new inhalation dose factors for uranium and thorium are about a factor of 4 lower, and for actinium a factor 2 lower, while the new ingestion dose factors are slightly higher.

For an analysis of the health hazards resulting from exposure to uranium and/or its decay products, a number of assessments has to be done for each specific exposure situation:

The following pages compile this information for a number of typical exposure situations for uranium industry workers and residents living near uranium industry facilities, for denture containing uranium, household items containing uranium, depleted uranium counterweights and depleted uranium weapons.

*) In cases, where radionuclide concentrations cannot be measured, mathematical modeling has to be performed to obtain concentration estimates resulting from the emissions of the facility of interest. For a selection of suitable free software packages, see Dose modeling software.

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