Radionuclides and heavy metals in Borovac, Southern Serbia
Ajtic, Jelena V.
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Background, aim, and scope The paper presents the complex approach to the assessment of the state of the environment in Southern Serbia, surroundings of Bujanovac, the region which is of great concern as being exposed to contamination by depleted uranium (DU) ammunition during the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) attacks in 1999. It includes studies on concentrations of radionuclides and heavy metals in different environmental samples 5 years after the military actions. Materials and methods In October 2004, samples of soil, grass, lichen, moss, honey, and water were collected at two sites, in the immediate vicinity of the targeted area and 5 km away from it. Radionuclide (Be-7, K-40, Cs-137, Pb-210, Ra-226, Th-232, U-235, U-238) activities in solid samples were determined by standard gamma spectrometry and total alpha and beta activity in water was determined by proportional alpha-beta counting. Concentrations of 35 elements were determined in the samples of soil, moss, grass..., and lichen by instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA). Results The results are discussed in the context of a possible contamination by DU that reached the environment during the attacks as well as in the context of an environmental pollution by radionuclides and heavy metals in Southern Serbia. The results are compared to the state of environment in the region and other parts of the country both prior to and following the attacks. Discussion This is the first comprehensive study of the contents of radionuclides and heavy metals in Southern Serbia and consequently highly important for the assessment of the state of environment in this part of the country concerning possible effects of DU ammunition on the environment, as well as anthropogenic source of pollution by radionuclides and heavy metals and other elements. Also, the highly sensitive method of INAA was used for the first time to analyze the environmental samples from this area. Conclusions The results of the study of radionuclides in the samples of soils, leaves, grass, moss, lichen, honey, and water in Southern Serbia (Bujanovac) gave no evidence of the DU contamination of the environment 5 years after the military actions in 1999. Activities of radionuclides in soils were within the range of the values obtained in the other parts of the country and within the global average. The ratio of uranium isotopes confirmed the natural origin of uranium. In general, concentrations of heavy metals in the samples of soils, plant leaves, mosses, and lichen are found to be less or in the lower range of values found in other parts of the country, in spite of the differences in plant and moss species or soil characteristics. Possible sources of heavy metal contamination were identified as a power coal plant in the vicinity of the sampling sites and wood and waste burning processes. Recommendations and perspectives The collected data should provide a base for the health risk assessments on animals and humans in the near future. It should be emphasized that the sampling was carried out 5 years after the military action and that the number of samples was limited; therefore, the conclusions should be accepted only as observed tendencies and a detailed study should be recommended in the future.
Keywords:heavy metals / pollution / radionuclides / Southern Serbia
Source:Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 2008, 15, 6, 509-520
- Ministry of Science of the Republic of Serbia , Joint Institute for Nuclear Researches, Dubna, Russia