Activity concentrations of 137Cs, 40K, and 210Pb radionuclides in selected medicinal herbs from Central Serbia and their effective dose due to ingestion

Sci Total Environ. 2020 Jan 20:701:134554. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.134554. Epub 2019 Nov 2.


Specific activity of 137Cs, 40K, and 210Pb radionuclides in fifteen selected medicinal herbs from three locations in Central Serbia (two mountains, Kopaonik and Zlatar, and a valley, Sokobanja) was measured using two semiconductor HPGe spectrometer systems. The obtained values are in intervals (<0.3 ÷ 9.7) Bq/kg, (<0.2 ÷ 24.7) Bq/kg, and (<0.2 ÷ 5.7) Bq/kg for 137Cs; in intervals (125 ÷ 1100) Bq/kg, (104 ÷ 872) Bq/kg, and (103 ÷ 954) Bq/kg for 40K, and in intervals (3.6 ÷ 49.0) Bq/kg, (3.9 ÷ 57.9) Bq/kg, and (2.8 ÷ 103) Bq/kg for 210Pb, for herbs from Kopaonik, Sokobanja and Zlatar, respectively. The highest activity measured in individual herbs was: 24.7 Bq/kg for 137Cs (Sokobanja valley), 1100 Bq/kg for 40K (Mt. Kopaonik) and 103 Bq/kg for 210Pb (Mt. Zlatar). The corresponding individual annual effective doses due to ingestion calculated from the measured activity concentrations, of the radionuclides are: in intervals (<1.7 ÷ 82.9) nSv, (<1.4 ÷ 211) nSv, and (<1.1 ÷ 48.7) nSv for 137Cs; in intervals (0.76 ÷ 4.5) μSv, (0.64 ÷ 4.4) μSv, and (0.63 ÷ 4.9) μSv for 40K, and in intervals (1.1 ÷ 18.2) μSv, (1.3 ÷ 21.6) μSv, (0.9 ÷ 38.3) μSv for 210Pb, respectively. The specific activity concentration values of 137Cs and 40K obtained for the investigated herbs are similar to the literature data, while no information was found in literature about specific activity concentration of 210Pb. The all values obtained for individual annual effective dose due to ingestion are less than 100 μSv, which means that the daily use of 200 mL of herbal infusion during a year made from the investigated herbs does not represent a radiological risk for health. However, a high individual annual effective dose of ingestion of 210Pb obtained for some herbs indicate that their consumption in larger amounts 2-3 cups of infusion daily over a year could make the dose to exceed the recommended level, and points to necessity for extensive investigation of 210Pb activity concentration worldwide.

Keywords: Effective dose of ingestion; Gamma spectrometry; Medicinal herbs; Radioactivity.

MeSH terms

  • Cesium Radioisotopes
  • Dietary Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Lead Radioisotopes / analysis*
  • Plants, Medicinal / chemistry*
  • Potassium Radioisotopes / analysis*
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Radiation Monitoring
  • Soil Pollutants, Radioactive / analysis*


  • Cesium Radioisotopes
  • Lead Radioisotopes
  • Potassium Radioisotopes
  • Soil Pollutants, Radioactive
  • Cesium-137