Ions, heavy metals, dyes, and organic pollutants are very common water contaminants. Nonetheless, despite its recent emergence, radioactive water contamination is extremely concerning for both human health and water pollution.
Recently, numerous regions of the world have reported cases of radioactive pollution, and related health effects. Let's examine the role that radioactive substances play in causing water pollution.
Types of Radioactive emissions
The phenomena of spontaneous emission of particles or waves from unstable nucleus are known as radioactivity. The three radioactive emission types are alpha, beta, and gamma.
Positive charges are found in alpha particles, negatively charged electrons in beta particles, and neutral electromagnetic radiation in gamma rays.
Causes of radioactive pollution
Since, groundwater is exposed to radioactive materials contained in the rocks more than surface water is, radioactive contamination is more common in groundwater.
Radioactive pollution is also caused by the deposition of these radioactive gases in water-bodies. Radioactive nuclei are also added to the surface water via cosmogenic radionuclide atmospheric deposition (both dry and wet).
How can the radioactivity of water be tested?
Becquerel (an SI unit) or Curie is the unit used to measure radioactivity. Gray measures the amount of energy absorbed per unit mass, whereas Sievert measures the amount of radiation absorbed by human tissues.
All forms of water contains some radiation, however, the prolonged exposure to radiation is dangerous to human health. Using a gross alpha test, radioactivity in drinking water can be identified.
How does radioactive waste cause water pollution?
1. Nuclear mishaps at nuclear energy production facilities
Various types of energy are being discovered in the postmodern era. Nuclear energy is one of them and is said to be the most powerful source of energy, due to its tremendous latent power. According to the reports, the high radiation level is what causes the high latent power.
2. Making nuclear weapons into weapons of mass destruction (WMD)
The Second World War's employment of nuclear energy, such as atomic bombs and nuclear missiles, explains both the origin and the harmful effects of radioactive pollution or contamination.
3. Utilization of Radioisotopes
Detectors and other industrial processes both employ radioisotopes. Radiation is present at high amounts in some isotopes, including uranium. Conversely, common isotopes like radioactive carbon-containing substances are easily discovered in streams, through sewage systems.
Since, most untreated raw sewage is dumped into the environment, the isotope once released reacts with other substances and elements found in water.
The majority of mining includes excavating the mineral ores, which are subsequently divided up into more workable chunks. For instance, the naturally occurring radioactive elements radium and uranium, are both found in the environment.
5. Radioactive chemical spills
Ships that strike glaciers or coral reefs have caused spillages across oceans in the past, sending pollutants into the air and onto waterways. Most of these compounds, notably petroleum-based goods, have a high radiation content that could be harmful to the environment.
Effects of Radioactive pollutants
The condition most commonly brought on by radiation is cancer. It has grown over time and now represents a serious threat to world health.
Leukemia, anemia, hemorrhage, a shorter life expectancy that causes premature ageing and fatalities, as well as other conditions like cardiovascular issues, are among the others. For instance, radiation in the bone marrow results in leukemia.
2. Infertility of Soil
Because, radiation is exposed to the atmosphere, soils also contain radiation. The various nutrients in the soil react with radioactive chemicals in the soil, destroying those nutrients and making the soil poisonous and infertile.
Such soil results in the harvest of radioactively contaminated crops that is unsafe, for both human and animal consumption.
3. Effects on Marine life
For many years, radioisotopes have been released into the water by the power plants, which are the sources of nuclear energy and chemical processing. Among them are Cesium, Radon, Crypton, Ruthenium, Zinc, and Copper.
Because, radioactive materials are characterized by radiation and have a high level of particle instability, they have the potential to significantly disrupt, change, and even eradicate plant, animal, and human life.
The concentration of radioactive elements, the energy of the radiation emitted, the proximity of the radioactive materials to people exposed, and the type of radiation all have a role, in how much harm or risk is caused to the environment.
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