A review of measurements of radionuclides in members of the public in the UK

Sue A. Hodgson*, G. J. Ham, M. J. Youngman, George Etherington, G. N. Stradling

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    15 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper summarises a comprehensive review of radio-analytical data from autopsy, whole or partial body monitoring and the assay of teeth, foetuses and urine for non-occupationally exposed members of the public in the UK between 1957 and 2003. Most attention has been given to measurements of artificial radionuclides formed in the nuclear fuel cycle, uranium and thorium. The review concentrates on measurements on people in the UK who live or have lived in the vicinity of nuclear power sites. When UK data are unavailable, or for the purposes of comparison, information has been included from studies in other countries. Highlights of key findings of the document are listed: • The concentrations of strontium-90 in bone and teeth have reflected changes in the amounts present in the environment due to fallout from nuclear testing. • There are higher concentration levels of 239+240Pu in samples from West Cumbria compared with the rest of the UK. However, the levels are so low that any increase in risk of induced skeletal tumours (including leukaemia) would be very small compared with those arising from the intake of natural radionuclides. • As expected there have been only a few published autopsy studies. Both tissue sample mass and radionuclide concentrations were low, leading to relatively large measurement uncertainties. • Whole body measurements of 137CS in residents in Berkshire and Oxfordshire clearly show the effect of atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons and of the Chernobyl accident. • A survey of whole body 137Cs and 134Cs content following the Chernobyl accident showed that residents of Central Scotland, North-West England and North Wales had twice the radiocaesium content of residents in the rest of England and Wales. • Measurements of 131I in the thyroid have been reported following the accidents at Windscale and Chernobyl for most regions of the UK. • Few excretion studies have been reported although this does not diminish their importance. One study on the urinary excretion rate of 90Sr in adults and children living in the Dounreay area suggested that the results did not support this radionuclide as being the cause of increased childhood leukaemia. Similar conclusions were drawn from another study involving the assay of 239Pu. It is suggested that a national database of measurements made on members of the public should be initiated. The database would provide a means for identifying future trends.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)369-389
    Number of pages21
    JournalJournal of Radiological Protection
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2004


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