A survey of uranium levels in urine and hair of people living in a coal mining area in Yili, Xinjiang, China

Rehemanjiang Wufuer, Wenjuan Song, Daoyong Zhang, Xiangliang Pan, Geoffrey Michael Gadd

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Recent reports have drawn attention to the uranium contamination arising from coal mining activities in the Yili region of Xinjiang, China due to the mixed distribution of uranium and coal mines, and some of the coal mines being associated with a high uranium content. In this study, we have collected water samples, solid samples such as soil, mud, coal, and coal ash, and hair and urine samples from local populations in order to evaluate the uranium level in this environment and its implications for humans in this high uranium coal mining area. Our results showed that uranium concentrations were 8.71-10.91 μg L-1 in underground water, whereas lower levels of uranium occurred in river water. Among the solid samples, coal ash contained fairly high concentrations of uranium (33.1 μg g-1) due to enrichment from coal burning. In addition, uranium levels in the other solid samples were around 2.8 μg g-1 (the Earth's average background value). Uranium concentrations in hair and urine samples were 22.2-634.5 ng g-1 (mean: 156.2 ng g-1) and 8.44-761.6 ng L-1 (mean: 202.6 ng L-1), respectively, which are significantly higher than reference values reported for unexposed subjects in other areas. Therefore, these results indicate that people living in this coal mining area have been subjected to uranium exposure for long periods of time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-174
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Environmental Radioactivity
Early online date18 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


  • Enrichment
  • Unexposed subjects
  • Uranium contamination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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