What are pathways?

Pathways are ways in which the presence of radioactive materials in the environment lead to potential exposure to humans.

2012 Radiation Sources around LANL: The average radiation exposure for an individual from all sources was estimated at approximately 751 mrem. One-tenth of one percent can be attributed to LANL sources.

Simply speaking, a pathway is a way that radioactive material can get into the body; for example, breathing air, drinking water, or eating food.

For the direct exposure pathway, radiation directly penetrates the body.

For the inhalation or airborne pathway, a material is inhaled directly into the lungs and then moves into the bloodstream.

For the ingestion pathway, there are several different possibilities:

  1. An animal drinks surface water, and then a human eats the animal.
  2. Crops are irrigated with surface water, and then a human eats the crops.
  3. A contaminant gets into the aquifer, the aquifer supplies the public drinking water system, and the water is consumed.
  4. A contaminant gets into the aquifer, the aquifer supplies a natural spring, and the spring water is consumed.

A pathway may be interrupted or incomplete. For example, water from the aquifer is treated before it reaches the public drinking water system.

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