Date: May 2, 2017
Source: University of Georgia
Migratory waterfowl around the world travel hundreds to thousands of miles annually, stopping at lakes, ponds and marshes to refuel and breed. Some of these aquatic rest stops may be at sites polluted by remnants of radioactive waste from nuclear production or accidents, exposing the birds to contamination that they take with them. This poses a potential risk to humans if the waterfowl enter the food chain.
Now scientists at the University of Georgia have identified two factors that affect the accumulation of a radioactive contaminant in waterfowl. The study, published recently in the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, reveals that the wild birds' uptake of radiocesium is influenced by two main factors -- the amount of time the bird inhabits a contaminated body of water and the bird's foraging habits.
Robert Kennamer, lead investigator on the study, guided a team of researchers that examined American coots and ring-necked ducks at the U.S. Department of Energy's Savannah River Site, a former nuclear production facility. Every year thousands of migrant waterfowl visit SRS, which is closed to waterfowl hunting. These birds forage in contaminated areas before resuming their journeys.