Radon in Water and the Risk of Cancer

Friday, July 20, 2012 @ 04:07 PM
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Waterborne Radon Can Increase Lung Cancer Risks in Bloomington, Indiana

Radon in WaterThe Environmental Protection Agency has determined that waterborne radon, a common problem in Bloomington, Indiana, can increase one’s risk for lung cancer and other health problems. In fact, the EPA has labeled the Bloomington area a red zone for high potential radon contamination.

Radon is a radioactive element that is naturally created during the decay of uranium in the earth’s crust. The geology of Bloomington and most of Indiana leaves it particularly vulnerable to radon creation and therefore to indoor contamination and higher lung cancer risks.

Radon is an inert, dense, single-atom gas that does not interact with chemicals, elements or other particles of radon. It has no color, taste or scent, and it can travel through solid materials. Ground and well water, however, are both particularly common modes of transportation for the particles. When water is released through faucets and appliances, the radon can be released into the air of the home.

Therefore, the radon in the water supply itself is actually not the primary concern. It is estimated that 185 deaths per year occur from ingesting waterborne radon, while between 18,000 and 22,000 deaths per year result from lung cancer due to inhaling airborne radon. The inhalation of radon particles in the air is actually considered to be the second most common cause of lung cancer after smoking.

Level Standards for Radon in Water and in Air

Radon levels are measured in picocuries per liter (pCi/L); a single picocurie is 0.037 radioactive disintegrations per second. According to the EPA, 10,000 pCi/L in water equals 1.0 pCi/L in air. The current safety cutoff is 4.0 pCi/L in the air within the home. There are currently no official standards for radon in water, although the EPA is considering implementing a standard of 300 pCi/L for public water supplies.

Bloomington is located within a Zone 1 area for radon. This high risk zoning was assigned because homes in this area consistently contain a predictable average indoor screening level of 4.0 pCi/L or greater.

Testing and Treatment for Waterborne Radon

You can purchase a home test kit for radon from most home supply stores. These kits require you to mail a sample back to a lab to receive your results. You can also have a professional test performed by technicians from SWAT Environmental. If the test results reveal radon levels of 4.0 pCi/L or greater, you will need to have abatements systems installed. Reducing the levels of radon in water supplies is generally accomplished with either an aeration system or a Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) filtration system.

An aeration system is usually the preferable option since it prevents the buildup of radiation within the system. It uses an outside-ventilated chamber that mixes water and oxygen to cause the release of the radon particles from the water before it enters your house. A GAC system, on the other hand, filters radon particles from the water before it exits through the tap. SWAT Environmental’s experts will be able to design and install the best system to keep you protected.

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