Mintek has recently received accreditation from the South African National Standards (SANS) to determine uranium in urine using the Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) method.
The accreditation has enabled Mintek’s Analytical Services Division (ASD) to measure the concentration of uranium on its radiation workers. The urine analysis is conducted as part of the biological monitoring to protect employees who work with radioactive materials against possible prolonged exposure.
Mintek’s Senior Scientist, Sandile Langa explains that “internal exposure to radioactive materials during uranium mining and processing can take place through inhalation, ingestion, or through a cut in the skin which can present a health risk.
Langa said “analysing of specimens in-house has improved the turnaround time and cost savings for Mintek compared to when this was done by an external service provider.
Langa further explained that”ASD was commissioned to develop a method for monitoring uranium in employees exposed to radiation, which it has received accreditation for in 2017. ASD monitors 238U by analysing urine samples by ICP-MS. The samples are digested by a microwave oven to remove all the suspended matter.”
To understand uranium, he explains that “uranium is a naturally occurring radioactive element. It is a mixture of three isotopes: 234U, 235U, and 238U. The most common isotope is 238U which makes up about 99% of natural uranium by mass. Uranium quantification is important to monitor human exposure.”