Radon, water and abandoned metalliferous mines in the UK: Environmental and Human Health implications

Source: OAI


A study has been undertaken of radon gas levels in the atmosphere in abandoned metalliferous mines that were exploited primarily for tin in South-West England, UK, and compared to levels in an old lead mine in northern England, UK. Measurements have been taken since 1992 in the South-West of radon in the air using a variety of measuring techniques. Extremely high radon gas levels have been noted in a number of these mines, one of the highest levels recorded in Europe was recorded at 3,932,920 Bq m-3 in a shallow adit of an ex-uranium mine. The health implications for casual users / explorers of such mines are shown to be considerable. Even outside such mines, in adit entranceways, very high atmospheric radon levels were recorded of, for example, 200,000 Bq m-3. The heavy metal content of stream-water that flows from such mine adits together with dissolved radon content has also been measured and assessed in terms of potential health effects. A combination of heavy metal pollution and radiation can have a considerable impact on health and this research recommends that further research should be undertaken in such environments.

Download full-text


Available from: John Patrick Grattan
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Radon is a ubiquitous natural carcinogen derived from the three primordial radionuclides of the uranium series (238U and 235U) and thorium series (232Th). In general, it is present at very low concentrations in the outdoor or indoor environment, but a number of scenarios can give rise to significant radiological exposures. Historically, these scenarios were not recognised, and took many centuries to understand the links between the complex behaviour of radon and progeny decay and health risks such as lung cancer. However, in concert with the rapid evolution in the related sciences of nuclear physics and radiological health in the first half of the twentieth century, a more comprehensive understanding of the links between radon, its progeny and health impacts such as lung cancer has evolved. It is clear from uranium miner studies that acute occupational exposures lead to significant increases in cancer risk, but chronic or sub-chronic exposures, such as indoor residential settings, while suggestive of health risks, still entails various uncertainties. At present, prominent groups such as the BEIR or UNSCEAR committees argue that the ‘linear no threshold’ (LNT) model is the most appropriate model for radiation exposure management, based on their detailed review and analysis of uranium miner, residential, cellular or molecular studies. The LNT model implies that any additional or excess exposure to radon and progeny increases overall risks such as lung cancer. A variety of engineering approaches are available to address radon exposure problems. Where high radon scenarios are encountered, such as uranium mining, the most cost effective approach is well-engineered ventilation systems. For residential radon problems, various options can be assessed, including building design and passive or active ventilation systems. This paper presents a very broad but thorough review of radon sources, its behaviour (especially the importance of its radioactive decay progeny), common mining and non-mining scenarios which can give rise to significant radon and progeny exposures, followed by a review of associated health impacts, culminating in typical engineering approaches to reduce exposures and rehabilitate wastes.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2008 · Reviews in Environmental Science and Bio/Technology
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The distribution of radioactive pollutants, such as222Rn, U, Th and226Ra in the air, surface waters, soils and crops around the Lincang uranium mine, Yunnan Province, China, is studied. The mechanical, geochemical and biogeochemical processes responsible for the transport and fate of the radioactive elements are discussed based on the monitoring data. The pollutants concentrations of effluents from the mine tunnels were dependent on pH and which were controlled by biochemical oxidation of sulfide in the ore/host rocks. Radon anomalies in air reached 4 km from the tailings pile depending on radon release from the site, topography and climate.238U and226Ra abnormities in stream sediments and soil were 40—90 cm deep and 790—800 m away downstream. Anomalies of radioactive contaminants of surface watercourses extended 7.5—13 km from the discharge of effluents of the site mainly depending on mechanical and chemical processes. There were about 2.86 ha rice fields and 1.59 km stream sediments contaminated. Erosion of tailings and mining debris with little or no containment or control accelerated the contamination processes.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2002 · Science in China Series B Chemistry
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The distribution of radon in ground and surface water samples in Sankey Tank and Mallathahalli Lake areas was determined using Durridge RAD-7 analyzer with RAD H2O accessory. The radiation dose received by an individual falling under different age groups (viz., 3 months; 1, 5, 10, 15 years and adult) depending upon their average annual water consumption rate was attempted. The mean radon activity in surface water of Sankey Tank and Mallathahalli Lake was 7.24 ± 1.48 and 11.43 ± 1.11 Bq/L, respectively. The average radon activities ranged from 11.6 ± 1.7 to 381.2 ± 2.0 Bq/L and 1.50 ± 0.83 to 18.9 ± 1.59 Bq/L, respectively, in 12 groundwater samples each around Sankey Tank and Mallathahalli Lake areas. Majority of the measured groundwater samples (viz., 100 % in Sankey Tank area and 75 % in Mallathahalli Lake area) showed mean radon values above the EPA’s maximum contaminant level of 11.1 Bq/L and only 66.67 % of samples in Sankey Tank area showed radon above the WHO and EU’s reference level of 100 Bq/L. The overall radiation dose due to radon emanating from water in the study area was increasing with increase in age and water consumption rates, but significantly lower than UNSCEAR and WHO recommended limit of 1 mSv/year except for few groundwater samples in Sankey Tank area (i.e., 0.92, 0.99 and 1.39 mSv/year). The radiation dose rate received by bronchial epithelium via inhalation was very high compared to that by stomach walls via ingestion.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2014 · International journal of Environmental Science and Technology