Radon is a naturally occurring tasteless, odorless, colorless and radioactive gas. It is produced when uranium is breaking down in rock, soil or water. The most prevalent form of unprocessed or “natural” uranium is U-238, and this is found in all of these elements. So, should you be concerned that there may be radon in your drinking water?
Do You Have Radon in Your Well Water?
The levels of radon in well water supplies can vary according to a number of factors. Unfortunately, since radon is colorless, odorless and tasteless, it is impossible to determine any radon levels without proper testing. Therefore, you cannot determine if your well water is safe for drinking.
If your water is sourced from a private well, you are likely to be aware that there is a range of compounds and elements that are naturally occurring and could be present in your water supply. As public radon awareness in indoor air has increased in recent years, the interest in radon water contamination has also increased.
Typically, there are higher levels of radon in groundwater compared to surface water. The reason for this is that radon can become “trapped” in groundwater as it is submerged and cannot easily escape.
If your well is sourced from surface water, radon is not likely to be a serious concern. If your water supply is derived from the groundwater or from a public system, you may need to investigate further.
The Health Implications of Radon
Long term exposure to high levels of radon and radon breakdown products or progeny has been shown to increase the chances of developing lung cancer. The level of alpha particle exposure affects the risks, with greater exposure linked with greater chances of developing cancer.
The EPA has set a radon water contaminant level at 4000 pCi/l, and if your water supply contains higher levels, you will need to consider water treatment solutions or switch to an alternative source.
Dealing with Radon Water Contamination
There are two main methods of removing radon from water; granular activated carbon (GAC) or aeration. These methods can remove up to 99% of radon traces from your water supply. While aeration may be more effective, GAC tends to be a more cost effective solution for homes. Although this treatment can be expensive for larger systems, it is a practical choice for individual residential wells or small systems.
Unfortunately, since radon is a gas, there is a risk of exposure through inhalation. This means that a whole home water treatment system is preferable to a point of use device. While a point of use device will ensure that your drinking water is safe, it will not provide protection from exposure when bathing or using water in other areas of your home.
If you have concerns about radon in your water supply, you should speak to a water treatment professional. An experienced and fully WQA certified technician can not only advise you on radon abatement, but can guide you through the wide range of treatment options that meet or even exceed the industry standards.
With more than 25 years experience in the residential and commercial water treatment space, Terry is a WQA (Water Quality Association) certified water specialist, LEVEL 3, as well as a WQA certified sales representative. Terry currently sits on EcoWater Systems (a Berkshire Hathaway Company) national Peers committee, as a water treatment expert advising other water professionals with less experience on best trade and technology practices. EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is one of the biggest water treatment and water delivery businesses in the state.