Recently, radioactive pollution in water and associated health impacts have been reported in many parts of the globe.

Important points:

  • Radioactivity is the phenomenon of spontaneous emission of particles or waves from the unstable nuclei of some elements. There are three types of radioactive emissions: Alpha, Beta and Gamma.
  • Alpha particles are positively charged He (Helium) atoms, beta particles are negatively charged electrons and gamma rays are neutral electromagnetic radiations.
  • Radioactive elements are naturally found in the earth’s crust. Uranium, thorium and actinium are three NORM (Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials) series that contaminate water resources.
  • A small amount of radiation is found in all types of water but the extended amount of radiation is harmful to human health. Radioactivity in drinking water can be determined by a gross alpha test.
  • Radioactivity is measured in Becquerel (SI unit) or in Curie. The unit Sievert measures the quantity of radiation absorbed by human tissues.


  • Radiotoxic Elements in Aquatic System: Radium, a descendant of the NORM series, is one of the radiotoxic elements found in aquatic systems and can be penetrated into groundwater via (i) aquifer rock dissolution (ii) decaying of 238U and 232Th, or (iii) desorption processes.
  • Radium is a radionuclide formed by the decay of uranium (U) and thorium (Th) in the environment.
  • Sometimes, magma also releases radioactive gases into the environment.
  • Percolation of NORM from the soil sediments to the aquifer causes groundwater contamination.

Way Forward

  • Nowadays, proper analysis and monitoring of radioactive pollutants are also required for a safe water supply. Prevention and precaution measures can check the anthropogenic sources of radioactive contamination in water resources.
  • Various treatment methods like aeration, reverse osmosis, ion exchange and granule carbon adsorption are effective remedial measures for treating the radioactive contaminated water.


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