Emerging and Historical Contaminants Detected in Desert Rodents Collected Near a Low-Level Radioactive Waste Site

Ryan S. Cleary, Adcharee Karnjanapiboonwong, William A. Thompson, Steven J. Lasee, Seenivasan Subbiah, Ronald K. Kauble, Brian J. Andraski, Todd A. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


In an effort to determine contaminant presence, concentrations, and movement from a low-level radioactive waste (LLRW) burial disposal site to ecosystems in the surrounding area, a study was developed to assess concentrations of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and tritium. To complete this assessment small mammals, vegetation, soil, and insect samples were collected from areas within and adjacent to the Beatty, Nevada, LLRW site and from a reference area located approximately 3 km south of the LLRW site. Samples underwent analysis via liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry, gas chromatography mass spectrometry, or scintillation spectroscopy depending on the analyte of interest. Small mammal tissues showed maximum concentrations of over 1700 ng/g for PFAS, 1600 ng/g for PCBs, and 10 000 Bq/kg for tritium. The primary contaminants found in soil samples were PCBs, with maximum concentrations exceeding 25 ng/g. Trace amounts of PFAS were also detected in soils and insects. Only qualitative data were obtained from vegetation samples because of the complex matrix of the dominant plant species (creosote bush; Larrea tridentata [Sessé & Moc. ex DC.] Coville). Overall, these data indicate the presence of various anthropogenic contaminants in the ecosystem surrounding the LLRW area, but additional analyses are necessary to confirm the sources and migration pathways of PFAS and PCBs in this hyperarid environment. Environ Toxicol Chem 2021;40:727–734.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)727-734
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Environmental chemistry
  • Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls
  • Small mammals
  • Tritium


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