According to an Environmental Working Group (EWG) investigation report, over 170 million Americans are drinking radiation-contaminated tap water. Unfortunately, radioactivity causes fear in the way films and popular culture depict it. It is even more subtle and insidious because it can cause irreparable damage to the human body, damage that stays hidden for years and generations.
We are exposed to naturally occurring radiation in our daily lives. Radioactive particles, or radionuclides like potassium 40 or radium 226, are part of nature. Most commonly found in plants and animals. Yet, increased exposure to radiation from water or air happens when nuclear power plants, mining activities, or laboratories release radioactive substances into the environment. It is more common than most people know, especially in potable water.
Radioactivity is a voluntary release of radiation. The term “radiation” refers to any process of emitting energy in the form of electromagnetic waves or particles, such as light or sound.
Radioactive particulate matter is found in rock and soil and is usually used as a pathway into groundwater. Two categories of radioactive particles exist in water: alpha and beta particles.
Alpha particles contain 2 protons and 2 neutrons. Typical examples include radium-226, radon-222, uranium-238, polonium-210, and lead-206. Alpha particles cannot penetrate the skin from the exterior. However, when swallowed, they become active within the body and may cause damage. Beta particles are radioactive particles made up of just one electron or positron. Strontium 90 and potassium 40 are common examples of this. Beta molecules may penetrate the upper layer of the skin and cause burns. Beta particles are more likely to cause internal damage than alpha particles, as they have more energy than their alpha counterparts. Thus, beta particles can move toward body tissues farther than alpha particles can.
Water can get radioactive. We are worried about natural radiation and additional radioactive particles entering the water of rock formations in the vicinity of mining sites, nuclear power plants, or laboratories. Unfortunately, the effects of radioactive particles in water can result in cancer and even death.
While our skin can save us from alpha particles in the environment, exposure to radiation from water is particularly dangerous because radioactive components harm tissues and organs. Radioactive particles cause damage by breaking the chemical bonds in molecules that can radically alter the body’s ability to operate. If a group of cells important to the functioning of the body dies, the effects may be lethal.
Once radioactive particles break the bonds of normal cells within the body, they release electrons. This may cause a chain reaction that ends up damaging the DNA molecules,
leading to cancer. And if there is a mutation in the cells of the germ (sex), cancer may pass to children long after the initial exposure. There are two primary processing choices for radioactive particles in water, which are carbon filters and ion-exchanger filters. Carbon filters pull radium and strontium out of drinking water.
Ion exchange may be used in uranium processing. In the end, the most suitable filter device depends on the type of radiation problem you have. This is why we always recommend that you test the water before treatment. If you’re worried about lead and arsenic, bacteria and pathogens, or radiation, knowing exactly what is in your water is essential to choosing the best filtration system for the unique chemistry of your water.