The measurement of radioactivity allows assessing how much human activity has contaminated the natural, working and living environment. Some materials may naturally contain radionuclides or radioactive elements (classified as NORM, Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials), while in other cases radioactivity is the result of anthropogenic contamination (TENORM, Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material).
The main industrial sources of radioactive elements are mines, energy production plants, water treatment plants, and industrial plants using phosphate minerals for the production of fertilizers.
Mérieux NutriSciences determines the quantity of gamma-emitting radionuclides by gamma spectrometer equipped with a germanium solid state detector (HPGe, High Purity Germanium Detector). This is a screening survey that allows detecting the pulses coming from the energetic photons of the sample under examination and that can be carried out on all environmental matrices. The most part of radioactive decays emits gamma photons with well-defined typical energies; it is thus possible to identify and quantify all the different radionuclides.
Despite the apparent operational simplicity, there are many factors that influence its correct execution: for example, the pre-treatment of the matrix and sample homogeneity, the choice of the container and its correct filling, background radioactivity and calibration. Mérieux NutriSciences has a long experience in this type of analysis that allows customers to easily overcome difficulties and provide reliable data.
In the specific case of solid environmental matrices, Mérieux NutriSciences usually performs measurements on contaminated waste/soils in areas to be reclaimed and/or which were subject to potentially contaminating industrial activities. Environmental air monitoring is also carried out in areas at risk: in this case, samples of ambient air suction filters can be tested to protect the health of workers and the population.