What are the health effects of drinking radioactive water?

July 11, 2022 3 min read

What are the health effects of drinking radioactive water?

Radioactive water is increasingly becoming a problem in the United States. Radiological contaminants, also known as radionuclides, are increasingly being detected in our drinking water. Uranium, radon, and radium are the most common radionuclides in drinking water. Drinking water safety is a major concern as a concentration of radiological contaminants exceeds the safe levels

How Does Drinking Radioactive Water Affect Your Health? 

People who consume water with relatively high levels of radionuclides like uranium and radon for a long time may develop severe health complications. The health problems include cancer, osteoporosis, anemia, bone growth, cataracts, compromised immune system, and liver and kidney diseases.  

What is Radioactive Water? 

Radioactive water is drinking water with radionuclide levels that exceed the set safety standards. Radionuclides can be artificial or naturally occurring. Naturally occurring radionuclides are formed in the upper atmosphere and are found in certain types of rocks. These rocks contain radioactive isotopes of thorium, actinium, and uranium in trace amounts. As the rocks break down due to weathering, the resultant soils and clays transfer the radionuclides to water as it seeps into the ground. 

The contaminated water percolates deep into the ground, accumulating in the natural underground water reserves. Once radionuclides such as uranium and radium are leeched from their parent rocks, they begin to decay. They break down into less stable, more radioactive molecules, drastically increasing the concentration of radioactive materials in the groundwater. 

Water companies sink deep wells to tap into these underground reservoirs with high levels of radionuclides. The typical water treatment facilities aren't equipped to filter radioactive materials from your tap water.

Radioactive Particles and Human Health

As radionuclides decay, they emit three types of radioactive particles – alpha particles, beta particles, and gamma rays. Each of these radioactive particles is harmful to human health. 

  • Alpha particles cannot penetrate the human skin but are very harmful when inhaled or swallowed. Consuming alpha particles will devastate your internal organs besides severely damaging your cells and DNA. 
  • Beta particles can penetrate the human skin and cause skin burns. But they're more hazardous when swallowed or inhaled because they can damage your cells and internal organs. 
  • Gamma rays are the most externally damaging since they can pass through the human body. They will readily damage the cells in their path, damaging tissue and DNA. 

How Does Ingesting Radionuclides Affect Your Health? 

You're likely to ingest radionuclides by drinking contaminated water or eating food cleaned with contaminated water. Once you ingest radioactive material, the particles travel through your body while damaging your organs. The particles will ionize and destabilize the atoms in your body, damaging the cells and chromosomes. The ionization process may kill the cells or trigger unnatural cell reproduction. 

  • Uranium: Consuming water contaminated with uranium may lead to kidney failure. The radionuclide damages the kidneys and alters their functions before causing them to fail. 
  • Radium: High exposure to radium-containing paint is associated with severe growth retardation, rare bone cancer, kidney and liver diseases, and osteoporosis. The effects of ingesting radium-contaminated water aren't well studied but are likely devastating. 
  • Radon: Inhaling radon, an invisible radioactive gas, increases the likelihood of developing lung cancer. There's a high risk of inhaling radon after it's released from the water flowing from your tap. Ingesting drinking water contaminated with radon poses the risk of developing stomach cancer and other internal organs. 

Protect Yourself from Radioactive Water

The health effects of drinking radioactive water aren't extensively documented, but they run the gamut from osteoporosis to anemia and types of cancers. With most of the country increasingly depending on underground water reservoirs, the risk of ingesting contaminated water is greatly magnified. 

Seychelle Radiological filters can protect you and your family from the threat of radioactive water. These filters are independently tested are can effectively eliminate alpha radium 226, gross beta, cesium 134 & 137, radon 222, and uranium from contaminated water. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is radioactive water?

Radioactive water is water contaminated with radiological contaminants, including cesium, radon, and uranium. 

What are the dangers of ingesting radioactive water?

Consuming radioactive water leads to multiple health conditions kidney and liver damage, various types of cancer, and even death. 

Why does tap water contain radioactive materials?

Water companies tap underground reservoirs that contain water with high levels of radiological contaminants. 

Works Cited 

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Radiation Basics. https://www.epa.gov/radiation/radiation-basics#:~:text=Some%20beta%20particles%20are%20capable,damage%20to%20tissue%20and%20DNA. Accessed 22 June 2022

Bruce Lesikar, Rebecca Melton, Michael Hare, and Janie Hopkins. Drinking Water Problems: Radionuclides.https://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu/library/water/drinking-water-problems-radionuclides/#:~:text=How%20do%20Radionuclides%20affect%20Health%3F.Accessed 22 June 2022

Minnesota Department of Health. Radionuclides (Radium) in Drinking Water. https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/environment/water/contaminants/radionuclides.html#HealthEffects. Accessed 22 June 2022

The Associated Press. You can get cancer": Uranium contaminates water in the West. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/uranium-contaminates-drinking-water-in-us-west/. Accessed 22 June 2022

Erica Weir. Uranium in drinking water, naturally. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC359425/. Accessed 22 June 2022