What are pathways?
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:
- An animal drinks surface water, and then a human eats the animal.
- Crops are irrigated with surface water, and then a human eats the crops.
- A contaminant gets into the aquifer, the aquifer supplies the public drinking water system, and the water is consumed.
- 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.