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Variation in the metabolism of radiocaesium between individual sheep

Beresford, N.A.; Mayes, R.W.; Barnett, C.L.; MacEachern, P.J.; Crout, N.M.J.. 1998 Variation in the metabolism of radiocaesium between individual sheep. Radiation and Environmental Biophysics, 37 (4). 277-281. 10.1007/s004110050129

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Abstract/Summary

Considerable variability has been recorded in the radiocaesium activity concentration of muscle between individual sheep in the same flocks in upland areas that received fallout from the Chernobyl accident. In a previous paper we demonstrated that there is a propensity for certain sheep within a flock to be always amongst the most contaminated and others to be consistently the least contaminated. Here we report a study to determine the extent to which variation in the metabolism of radiocaesium by individual sheep may contribute to the observed variability within sheep flocks. The transfer coefficient and biological half-life of orally administered ionic radiocaesium in muscle were determined under controlled conditions in 22 ewes from an upland farm in an area of the UK which received comparatively high levels of Chernobyl fallout. There was considerable variation between individuals in both the transfer coefficient (0.19–0.56 day⋅kg–1; mean 0.34 day⋅kg–1) and biological half-life in muscle (5.2– 18.7 days; mean 9.8 days). Changes in liveweight during the study and feed intake together accounted for 72% of the variation in the derived transfer coefficients; liveweight change also accounted for 56% of the observed variation in biological half-life. In a subsequent study, the true absorption coefficient of radiocaesium was determined in 12 of the ewes. There was a positive correlation between transfer and true absorption coefficients (R=0.57). We conclude that differences in the metabolism of radiocaesium will contribute to the observed variability in radiocaesium activity concentrations within sheep flocks in areas which were contaminated by Chernobyl fallout. We also suggest that for growing animals, the influence of liveweight change and feed intake on radiocaesium transfer may be greater than observed here. Similarly, in dairy cattle, for which feed intake changes considerably during the course of a lactation, large temporal variation in radiocaesium transfer to milk could be expected.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1007/s004110050129
Programmes: CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Other
CEH Sections: _ Pre-2000 sections
ISSN: 0301-634X
Additional Keywords: radioecology
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 28 May 2012 13:03
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/17792

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