Radiological Testing

These kits include lab testing for various types of radioactive elements, or for different types of radiation. Please consult the Tap Score customer service team if you're unsure of which water test kit you require.

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Radiation in Water

Can water be radioactive?

Yes, drinking water may contain radioactive particles called “radionuclides” that present a risk to human health. For most drinking water, the potential risks from these radiological contaminants are low compared to the risks from microorganisms and other chemicals that may be present in drinking water (lead, arsenic, E.coli, etc.).

Radiological contaminants in water

Radioactivity from naturally occurring and human-made sources is present throughout the environment. Some chemical elements are naturally radioactive and found in varying amounts in soils, water, and air. Exposure to them is inevitable. Some natural radionuclides include: radon, potassium-40, radium-226, radium-228, uranium-234, uranium-238, lead-210. These isotopes can be found in water as a result of either natural processes or technological processes–such as mining or phosphate fertilizer production–which involve the use of naturally occurring radioactive materials.

Effects of drinking radioactive water

There is evidence that prolonged exposure via ingestion of drinking water that contains radionuclides above 100 mSv (Brenner et al., 2003) can cause cancer in humans. Below this dose, an increased risk has not yet been identified through epidemiological studies which study the effects of radiation in water. It is assumed that there is a linear relationship between exposure and risk, with no threshold value below which there is no risk. The individual dose criterion of 0.1 mSv/year represents a very low level of risk not expected to give rise to any detectable adverse health effect. In addition to causing cancer, high radiation levels in drinking water are linked to kidney damage and birth defects.

Radioactivity limits in drinking water

Screening levels for drinking-water, below which no further action is required, are 0.5 Bq/l for gross alpha activity and 1 Bq/l for gross beta activity. If neither of these values is exceeded, the IDC of 0.1 mSv/year will also not be exceeded.

Gross beta in drinking water

National Primary Drinking Water Regulations stipulate that public water supplies must maintain gross beta levels below 4 millirems/year. This is approximately equivalent to 50 pCi/L. The public health goal is zero. The screening measurements for gross beta activities include the contribution from all radionuclides including radon progeny. 

Gross alpha in drinking water

National Primary Drinking Water Regulations stipulate that public water supplies must maintain gross alpha levels below 15 pCi/L. The public health goal is zero. The screening measurements for gross alpha activities include the contribution from all radionuclides including radon progeny. The three most common sources of alpha radiation are uranium, radon, and radium-226.

Radon in drinking water

Some drinking water, especially private well water sourced from groundwater, may contain radon–a radioactive gas. International research data (UNSCEAR, 2000) has concluded that about 90% of the dose attributable to radon in drinking-water comes from inhalation rather than ingestion.

Is it safe to drink water with radon?

Most US radiation exposure at home comes from radon exposure which takes place through the air. For example, if your radon levels are 4,000 pCi/L, since only about 1/10,000th of radon in water transfers to air, then this means radon in water contributes ~0.4 pCi/L of radon exposure via air. Low levels of radon in drinking water (below 4,000 pCi/L) are considered safe.

Is it safe to drink water with radium?

For radium, the EPA has set an MCL of 5 pCi/L. Drinking water with radium levels below that is considered safe.

Should I test for radon in water?

Some States have considered reducing radon in water to below 300 pCi/L. If you live in an area with high uranium levels, radon levels, or other sources of radionuclides in the water then we suggest at least an occasional water test to check these risk levels are low.

How to detect radiation in water

Laboratory testing is the only way to accurately measure radiation of all types in water. There are several EPA certified and Standard testing methods. Depending on which radionuclides you want to test for you will need to choose among these test packages. Scroll up for the radiation water testing packages available through Tap Score. 

How do you remove Gross Alpha from water?

Reverse osmosis and distillation technologies are normally the best available technologies for alpha particle removal. RO operates by subjecting pressurized water to a special semipermeable membrane, that membrane allows the water to flow through but prevents radionuclides. The effectiveness of each treatment option depends on the pH, total suspended solids (TSS), pressure and iron plus manganese content of the water, as well as the type of membrane used.

How do you remove Gross Beta from water?

Ion exchange, reverse osmosis, and distillation technologies are normally the best available technologies for beta particle removal. RO operates by subjecting pressurized water to a special semipermeable membrane, that membrane allows the water to flow through but prevents radionuclides. The effectiveness of each treatment option depends on the pH, total suspended solids (TSS), pressure and iron plus manganese content of the water, as well as the type of membrane used. Ion exchange (IE) is another residential water treatment option that wastes less water than RO and can remove about 90% of radionuclides.

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