Interesting post on radon gases in our drinking water. A little knowledge about radon, what it is, how it gets there and how to reduce it. Hope it helps.
Radon in Michigan's Drinking Water
We are all familiar with radon gas and the problem it presents in certain homes... but did you know it can be in the drinking water as well?
Radon -- A Quick Primer
Radon gas has no color, odor, or taste and comes from the natural radioactive breakdown of uranium in the ground.
Most of the radon in indoor air comes from soil underneath the home. They way we usually see it, at least here in Metro Detroit, is that uranium breaks down, forming radon gas and seeping into the house. Radon from soil can get into any type of building - homes, offices, and schools - and build up to high levels in the air inside the building.
But it can also dissolve and accumulate in water from underground sources (called ground water)... like wells.
When water that contains radon is used in the home for showering, washing dishes, and cooking, radon gas escapes from the water and goes into the air. It is similar to carbonated soda drinks where carbon dioxide is dissolved in the soda and is released when you open the bottle. Some radon also stays in the water.
While radon may be present in ground water, it is not a concern in surface water (water that comes from lakes, rivers, and reservoirs), because the radon is released into the air before it ever arrives at your tap.
Radon In Drinking Water And Your Health
Breathing radon in indoor air can cause lung cancer.
Radon gas decays into radioactive particles that can get trapped in your lungs when you breathe it. As they break down further, these particles release small bursts of energy, which can damage lung tissue and increase your chances of developing lung cancer over the course of your lifetime.
And yes, people who smoke are at an even greater risk.
While not everyone exposed to high levels of radon will develop lung cancer, radon in indoor air is the second leading cause of lung cancer, and the leading cause among non-smokers, taking about 20,000 people a year in the United States.
So how much radon gas comes from drinking water? According to the scientists at the EPA, only about 1-2 percent of radon in the indoor air comes from drinking water. And since some radon stays in the water, drinking water containing dangerous levels of radon presents a risk of developing internal organ cancers.
Is There Radon In My Drinking Water?
Not all drinking water contains radon. If your drinking water comes from a surface water source, such as a river, lake, or reservoir, most radon that might be in the water will be released into the air before reaching your water supplier or home. Radon is only a concern if your drinking water comes from underground, such as a well that pumps water from an aquifer, though not all water from underground sources contains radon.
What Is The Danger Level?
Currently, there is no federally-enforced drinking water standard for radon. The EPA does not regulate private wells, although they have proposed to regulate radon in drinking water from community water suppliers to radon levels no higher than 4,000 pCi/L.
This amount contributes about 0.4 pCi/L of radon to the air in your home.
Keep in mind that many different states already have standards in place.
How Do I Test For Radon In Drinking Water?
It depends. If you get your water from a public water system, find out where the get the water. Is it surface or ground water? Surface water doesn't contain much radon.
If the water comes from a ground source, call the water system and ask if they've tested for radon.
If you have a private well, the EPA recommends testing the drinking water for radon. The EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline is 800-426-4791, and they can provide numbers of people who test.
Of if you want to cut through the bureaucratic red tape, just call Diadem Property Inspections at 888-699-8710.
Getting Rid Of High Radon Levels In Water
If testing your private well shows that you have high levels of radon in your drinking water and you are concerned about it, there are some things you can do to improve the water.
The most effective treatment you can apply is to remove radon from the water right before it enters your home, which is called point-of-entry treatment. There are two types of point-of-entry devices that remove radon from water:
- Granular activated carbon (GAC) filters (which use activated carbon to remove the radon), and
- Aeration devices (which bubble air through the water and carry radon gas out into the atmosphere through an exhaust fan).
I'll write more about these devices in an upcoming blog post.
Diadem Property Inspections
Learn more: michigan-indoor-air-quality.com
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International Indoor Air Quality Commission CC1983 -- Indoor Environmental Certified Consultant