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Sobol sensitivity analysis for risk assessment of uranium in groundwater

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The exposure to uranium (U) in the natural environment is primarily through ingestion (eating contaminated food and drinking water) and dermal (skin contact with U powders/wastes) pathways. This study focuses on the dose assessment for different age-groups using the USEPA model. A total of 156 drinking water samples were tested to know U level in the groundwater of the study region. Different age-groups were selected to determine the human health impact due to uranium exposure in the residing populations. To determine the relative importance of each input, a variance decomposition technique, i.e., Sobol sensitivity analysis, was used. Furthermore, different sample sizes were tested to obtain the optimal Sobol sensitivity indices. Three types of effects were evaluated: first-order effect (FOE), second-order effect (SOE) and total effect. The result of analysis revealed that 17% of the samples had U concentration above 30 µg l−1 of U, which is the recommended level by World Health Organization. The mean hazard index (HI) value for younger age-group was found to be less than 1, whereas the 95th percentile value of HI value exceeded for both age-groups. The mean annual effective dose of U for adults was found to be slightly higher than the recommended level of 0.1 m Sv year−1. This result signified that adults experienced relatively higher exposure dose than the children in this region. Sobol sensitivity analysis of FOE showed that the concentration of uranium (Cw) is the most sensitive input followed by intake rate (IR) and exposure frequency. Moreover, the value of SOE revealed that interaction effect of Cw − IR is the most sensitive input parameter for the assessment of oral health risk. On the other hand, dermal model showed Cw − F as the most sensitive interaction input. The larger value of SOE was also recorded for older age-group than for the younger group.

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Authors are profoundly grateful to Board of Research and Nuclear Sciences (BRNS Project Ref. No.: 36(4)/14/10/2014-BRNS) under Department of Atomic Energy, India, for providing financial assistance.

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Correspondence to Deepak Kumar.

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Kumar, D., Singh, A., Kumar, P. et al. Sobol sensitivity analysis for risk assessment of uranium in groundwater. Environ Geochem Health (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10653-020-00522-5

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  • Groundwater
  • Sobol sensitivity analysis
  • Uranium
  • Dose assessment
  • Global sensitivity analysis