Los Alamos National Laboratory monitors levels of chemicals in wild plants and animals to determine whether substances released as a result of historical or current Laboratory operations are impacting them. We also assess environmental health by evaluating ecological parameters such as assessing benthic macroinvertebrate community assemblages.
To accomplish this, we collect samples from Laboratory property and perimeter locations, and compare the results with samples from regional background locations.
Laboratory personnel have conducted environmental monitoring since the early 1970s, and we are continually improving and adjusting sampling methods and locations to assess potential impacts.
What we do
We analyze radionuclides, metals, and organic chemicals, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, and furans in:
- Native understory plants (grasses and forbs) and overstory vegetation (trees)
- Small mammals, such as wild mice
- Nonviable avian eggs, and nestlings that die of natural causes
- Other wildlife including fox, coyote, bobcat, mountain lion, black bear, deer, elk, snakes, hawks, and owls - all collected opportunistically (for example, road kills)
- Fish and crayfish
We also assess benthic macroinvertebrate community assemblages, and conduct sediment biotoxicity assays, which measure growth and survival of aquatic invertebrates exposed to Rio Grande and reservoir sediments.
Why we do it
- To determine levels of radionuclides, metals, and organic chemicals in samples of wild plants and animals collected from Laboratory, perimeter, and downstream locations are similar to levels in samples from regional background locations
- To determine if chemical concentrations in wild plants and animals are changing over time
- To estimate radiation dose and chemical exposure risk for wild plants and animals
- To evaluate environmental health by examining ecological parameters
The results, interpretation, and discussion of the data are available in the Annual Environmental Report.