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Environmental Protection: Transfer Parameters for Reference Animals and Plants

ICRP Publication 114

Ann. ICRP 39 (6), 2009

P. Strand, N. Beresford, D. Copplestone, J. Godoy, L. Jianguo, R. Saxén, T. Yankovich, J. Brown


Abstract - In Publication 103, the Commission included a section on the protection of the environment, and indicated that it would be further developing its approach to this difficult subject by way of a set of Reference Animals and Plants (RAPs) as the basis for relating exposure to dose, and dose to radiation effects, for different types of animals and plants.

Subsequently, a set of 12 RAPs has been described in some detail, particularly with regard to estimation of the doses received by them, at a whole-body level, in relation to internal and external radionuclide concentrations; and what is known about the effects of radiation on such types of animals and plants. A set of dose conversion factors for all of the RAPs has been derived, and the resultant dose rates can be compared with evaluations of the effects of dose rates using derived consideration reference levels (DCRLs). Each DCRL constitutes a band of dose rates for each RAP within which there is likely to be some chance of the occurrence of deleterious effects. Site-specific data on Representative Organisms (i.e. organisms of specific interest for an assessment) can then be compared with such values and used as a basis for decision making.

It is intended that the Commission’s approach to protection of the environment be applied to all exposure situations. In some situations, the relevant radionuclide concentrations can be measured directly, but this is not always possible or feasible. In such cases, modelling techniques are used to estimate the radionuclide concentrations. This report is an initial step in addressing the needs of such modelling techniques.

After briefly reviewing the basic factors relating to the accumulation of radionuclides by different types of biota, in different habitats, and at different stages in the life cycle, this report focuses on the approaches used to model the transfer of radionuclides through the environment. It concludes that equilibrium concentration ratios (CRs) are most commonly used to model such transfers, and that they currently offer the most comprehensive data coverage.

The report also reviews the methods used to derive CRs, and describes a means of summarising statistical information from empirical data sets. Emphasis has been placed on using data from field studies, although some data from laboratory experiments have been included for some RAPs.

There are, inevitably, many data gaps for each RAP, and other data have been used to help fill these gaps. CRs specific to each RAP were extracted from a larger database, structured in terms of generic wildlife groups. In cases where data were lacking, values from taxonomically related organisms were used to derive suitable surrogate values. The full set of rules which have been applied for filling gaps in RAP-specific CRs is described.

Statistical summaries of the data sets are provided, and CR values for 39 elements and 12 RAP combinations are given. The data coverage, reliance on derived values, and applicability of the CR approach for each of the RAPs is discussed.

Finally, some consideration is given to approaches where RAPs and their life stages could be measured for the elements of interest under more rigorously controlled conditions to help fill the current data gaps.


Recommended reference format for citations

ICRP, 2009. Environmental Protection: Transfer Parameters for Reference Animals and Plants. ICRP Publication 114, Ann. ICRP 39(6)