SREL Reprint #2426

 

 

 

RACCOONS AS POTENTIAL VECTORS OF RADIONUCLIDE CONTAMINATION TO HUMAN FOOD CHAINS FROM A NUCLEAR INDUSTRIAL SITE

 

KAREN F. GAINES, Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, P.O. Drawer E, Aiken SC 29802, USA
CHRISTINE G. LORD, Nelson Biological Laboratories and Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ 08855, USA
C. SHANE BORING, Nelson Biological Laboratories and Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ 08855, USA and Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, P.O. Drawer E, Aiken SC 29802, USA
I. LEHR BRISBIN, JR., Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, P.O. Drawer E, Aiken SC 29802, USA
MICHAEL GOCHFELD, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ 08855, USA
JOANNA BURGER, Nelson Biological Laboratories and Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ 08855, USA

 

Abstract: Although the raccoon (Procyon rotor) is commonly harvested and consumed throughout the southeastern United States, little is known regarding the fate and effects of environmental pollutants to this species, and the potential for it to act as a contaminant vector to humans or other predators. Muscle and liver tissues were collected from 76 raccoons from locations on or near the Department off Energy 's Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina analyzed for radiocesium (137Cs). Raccoons were trapped from areas near a former reactor cooling reservoir known to be contaminated from former nuclear production activities, a stream drainage system also known to have received 137Cs contamination from low level releases, and 4 on-site reference areas that have been unimpacted by nuclear production activities. Raccoons from 3 hunting areas 3-15 km of SRS were used as off-site reference samples. 137Cs levels differed between the 3 treatment groups (contaminated, on-site reference, off-site reference) for both muscle and liver tissues. Muscle and liver samples from raccoons from on-site reference areas were higher in 137Cs than those from off-site reference animals. 137Cs in raccoon tissues from contaminated habitats exceeded levels in the pooled reference animals. The 2 contaminated areas differed in 137Cs tissue levels. Only 1 of 20 raccoons from contaminated sites on the SRS exceeded the European Economic (EEC) limit for 137Cs in edible muscle tissue of 0.6 Bq 137Cs/g fresh weight edible muscle. Further, none of the raccoons from the on-site reference areas exceeded EEC limits for muscle. It is unlikely that the hunting public faces any significant risk from exposure to raccoons from the SRS. Although some raccoons might stray off the SRS which is closed to public access, most of the heavily contaminated areas are not adjacent to the edges of' the site, decreasing the potential for off-site movement of contaminated animals.

Key words:  contaminant transport, Procyon lotor, radiocesium, raccoon, risk assessment, Savannah River Site, South Carolina

SREL Reprint #2426

Gaines, K.F., C.G. Lord, C.S. Boring, I.L. Brisbin, Jr., M. Gochfeld, and J. Burger. 2000. Raccoons as a potential vectors of radionuclide contamination to human food chains from a nuclear industrial site. Journal of Wildlife Management 64:199-208. 

 

 

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