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Uranium

Other Radiological Parameter Testing

The Department has also done limited testing on some representative private wells for other radiological parameters like radium-226 and radon in drinking water.Both radium and radon are created by the radioactive decay of uranium.However, because of the long half-life of uranium, if your well has high uranium, it does not necessarily mean that it also has high radium, radon, or any other uranium “daughter product.”Each of those elements must be specifically tested for to see if it is present and at what level.The radium and radon testing are described below.

Radium

24 wells that exceeded the MCL for uranium were also tested for radium-226.Radium-226 is also regulated by the EPA for public wells and has a MCL of 3 picocuries per liter (pCi/L).Of the 24 wells tested, only 4 exceeded the MCL for radium-226.With such a low percentage of wells exceeding the MCL, the Department believes that radium-226 problems are few in the area.However, for those wells that exceed the MCL, information about radium-226 is included as information.

Radium is a naturally occurring element (metal) and can be found almost everywhere in soil, water, rocks, plants, and food.Radium is created when uranium and thorium (another radioactive metal) decay or break down.Radium exists most often in two forms – radium-226 and radium-228.Both of these isotopes undergo further radioactive decay.Radium-226 is the more common of the two isotopes and has a half-life of about 1,600 years.Radium-228 has a half-life of about 6 years.

Since radium is in the environment, we are always exposed to it.However, if your well exceeds the MCL for radium, you may be exposed to higher levels.As radium decays, radiation is being released.Radium at high levels in water may pose a hazard to human health when the water is used for drinking.About 80% of the radium that is ingested leaves the body in the urine and feces.The remaining radium behaves similarly to calcium and is deposited in the bones.Over time, radiation from the radium deposited in the bones can damage tissue and lead to bone cancer.

Radon in Drinking Water

The Department tested 23 wells that we knew to exceed the MCL for uranium for radon in drinking water.Radon does not have an established MCL but the proposed MCL is 300 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) for public wells.Of the 23 wells tested, all of them exceeded the proposed MCL.

Radon is an odorless, tasteless radioactive gas that is also formed from the radioactive decay of uranium.Some radon gas moves through the soil to the surface and enters the air, while some remains below ground and enters the groundwater.Radon has a half-life of about 4 days.

Since radon is a gas and its break down products are often attached to dust, you are exposed to them primarily by breathing them in.Radon gas is present in nearly all air, even outside.Background levels of radon in outdoor air are generally quite low.You can also be exposed to radon and its decay products by drinking water obtained from wells that contain radon.In the U.S., average levels of radon in groundwater are about 350 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of water.Most radon is rapidly released into the air and can be breathed in.

Drinking water with high levels of radon is unlikely to significantly affect your health.Health effects from radon occur mainly from breathing it in.Long-term exposure to radon and its decay products in air increases your chances of getting lung cancer.Your chances of getting lung cancer from high radon levels in air are increased if you also smoke.

Radon in Air

The upstate of South Carolina is prone to radon gas problems that can enter your home through cracks in the floor or foundation.If you have a radon in air problem, it is usually highest at the lowest space in the house, like your basement.The good news is that most radon in air problems are easy and inexpensive to repair (or mitigate).The Department provides FREE test kits to check the air in your home.You can obtain a free test kit and information about radon mitigation by calling the Department’s radon hotline at 1-800-768-0362 or the Appalachia II EQC Regional Office in Greenville at (864) 241-1090.

To date, over 119 homes in the Simpsonville area have tested their air for radon.Approximately 38% of the tests exceed the EPA’s recommended action level of 4 pCi/L.However, the average radon result in air is approximately 5 pCi/L, which is only slightly higher than the action level.


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