Radiological water contaminants, also known as radionuclides, occur naturally in very small amounts in the soil in some locations in the world, but effluent from nuclear power plants and some medical facilities represent a much larger health problem when ingested in drinking water.
TYPES OF RADIOLOGICAL CONTAMINANTS
The most common forms of radionuclides found in water are listed below as well as how they get into groundwater:
RADON occurs in water as natural deposits of uranium decay in the earth’s crust. In municipal water systems, radon is vented into the air during filtration and poses little threat.
RADIUM is found in granite and other stone in the bedrock of the earth’s crust. Some aquifers that are especially deep have a higher chance to have traces of radium present, but naturally occurring radium very seldom causes any health problems.
URANIUM is an element that is found all over the world in trace amounts. Only people that live in areas with large mining installations have an increased threat of unusually high concentrations of uranium in their water.
ALPHA EMITTERS are components of rock and soil that get into groundwater as natural deposits of radium and uranium decay. They can be man-made but pose little threat because natural processes render them harmless unless ingested in huge amounts.
- BETA AND PHOTON EMITTERS are the real villains of this group. They are primarily found in surface water as nuclear power plants, some medical facilities, and some industries dispose of their radioactive waste which sometimes leaches into the soil where it can get into groundwater.
THE IMPACT ON OUR HEALTH
Over and over again, regardless of the source, long-term exposure or brief exposure in high doses, leads to cancer. Cancers of the bone, liver, stomach, lung, skin, kidneys, thyroid gland, and most other tissues are common, and medical science is still discovering other maladies that may be cancer-related.