The phenomena of radioactivity is the spontaneous emission of particles or waves from the unstable nucleus of certain materials. Radioactive emissions are classified into three types: alpha, beta, and gamma. Alpha particles are positively charged He (Helium) atoms, beta particles are negatively charged electrons, and gamma rays are electromagnetic radiations that are neutral. Radioactive elements can be found naturally in the earth’s crust. Three NORM (Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials) series contaminate water resources: uranium, thorium, and actinium. A trace quantity of radiation may be found in all types of water, but a large amount of radiation is dangerous to human health. A gross alpha test can be used to measure radioactivity in drinking water. Radioactivity is measured in either Becquerel (SI unit) or Curie. The Sievert unit quantifies the amount of radiation absorbed by human tissues.
- Nuclear Reactors and Warhead Tests: The primary sources of human-induced radionuclide discharge are nuclear reactors and nuclear warhead experiments. Nuclear reactors generate radioisotopes (Cobalt-60, Iridium-192, and so on) that are used as gamma radiation sources in radiotherapy and a variety of industrial appliances. Nuclear power facilities located near coastlines contribute to radioactive pollutants in marine water by emitting atomic waste. Water is also utilised as a coolant in these power plants, where it becomes polluted.
- Dumping of Radioactive Waste: The use of radioactive elements in nuclear weapons, X-rays, MRIs, and other medical equipment exposes humans to them. The disposal of these radioactive wastes in surface water bodies pollutes the water.
- Anthropogenic: Atmospheric Deposition of Cosmogenic Radionuclides: Atmospheric deposition of cosmogenic radionuclides (both dry and wet) adds radioactive nuclei to surface water. Cosmogenic radionuclides are radioactive isotopes created naturally and spread throughout the Earth system.
- Mining: Mining for radioactive materials such as uranium and thorium pollutes surface and groundwater.
- Accidents: Nuclear mishaps have resulted in radioactive contamination as a result of nuclear submarine accidents and sinkings. Examples of such nuclear mishaps include the Rocky Flats facility in Colorado, Fukushima, and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
- Natural: Radiotoxic Elements in the Natural Environment: Radium, a NORM series descendent, is one of the radiotoxic elements present in aquatic systems and can enter groundwater by I aquifer rock dissolution, (ii) decaying of 238U and 232Th, or (iii) desorption mechanisms. Radium is a radionuclide generated in the environment by the decay of uranium (U) and thorium (Th). Magma: Magma can occasionally emit radioactive gases into the environment. Groundwater pollution is caused by NORM percolation from soil sediments to the aquifer.
- Mutation and Structural Alteration: Ionizing radiation causes mutations in germ cells (male sperm cells and female egg cells), resulting in structural changes in germ cell DNA that are passed down to progeny. Hereditary illnesses can cause death or serious mental illness.
- Radiation Syndrome: Human tissues absorb radiation through contaminated water and food, posing major health hazards. Acute radiation syndrome or cutaneous radiation damage can result from high doses of radiation.
- Human Physiology Disorders:
- Radiation exposure causes a variety of physiologic problems in humans, including cancer, leukaemia, genetic alterations, cataracts, and so on.
A secure water supply now necessitates appropriate investigation and monitoring of radioactive contaminants. Anthropogenic causes of radioactive contamination in water resources can be reduced by prevention and precautionary measures. Aeration, reverse osmosis, ion exchange, and granule carbon adsorption are all viable remedial procedures for treating radioactive polluted water.
How to structure:
- Give an intro about radioactive pollution
- Explain how radioactive water pollution happens and cite reasons
- Explain how it can affect biodiversity
- Suggest way forward and mention related laws