New Mexico Department of Health
Our mission is to promote health and wellness, improve health outcomes, and assure safety net services for all people in New Mexico.

Radiochemistry Program

The Radiochemistry section was formed in August 1977 to provide environmental radioanalytical services for programs/projects of state and other governmental entities.

As an environmental radiological analytical facility, the section’s analytical parameters are focused on the naturally occurring radionuclides, i.e. the important members of the uranium-238 series and the thorium-232 series. The section routinely analyzes for: Gross-a/ß by proportional counting; U-238/234 by alpha spectroscopy; Th-230/232 by alpha spectroscopy; Ra-226 by radon emanation; Ra-228 by beta proportional counting of Ac-228 daughter; and Rn-222 in water by liquid scintillation. A gamma spectroscopy capability is maintained for the identification and quantitation of most man-made radionuclides (i.e. gamma emitters, such as Co-60, Cs-137, I-131). Due to the presence of alpha spectroscopy instrumentation, a capability for the analysis of the following transuranic nuclides Am-241, Pu-238, and Pu-(239+240) is also maintained.

Additional parameters are potentially available, depending upon the user’s needs and support that can be mustered. Users involved in non-routine programs or special projects are encouraged to consult the section supervisor to discuss their needs and available options.


History

The section's initial charge was to provide radiochemical analyses in support of the Safe Drinking Water Act’s then recent inclusion of Radionuclides as regulated parameters [41FR28401, Aug. 9, 1976]. In January of 1979, the section obtained EPA Region 6 certification for the measurement of gross alpha, gross beta, Ra-226 and Ra-228 in drinking water. This certification has been retained ever since. After the procurement of gamma spectroscopy instrumentation, and participation in that portion of the EPA proficiency program, the laboratory received, in Mar-1985, certification for that measurement as well; which has likewise been retained.

After accomplishing Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) certification, the section moved into non-drinking water areas and developed the capability to handle a broader range of sample media, e.g. water with sediment, soils and air filters. Requests for handling such sample media have fluctuated. During the mid-1980’s there was a program for analyzing air filters from the Grants Mineral Belt for U-238/4, Th-230, Ra-226 and Pb-210; however, that program has gone the way of uranium mining and milling. During the early 1990’s there was a project that submitted several roadside dirt samples so as to establish an occurrence baseline for several radionuclides.

We have been significantly involved in the following unique historical projects:


Methodology

EPA 600 4-80-032

EPA SW-846