“Radioactive Pollution in water: A global concern for human health”

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Context-Although Water pollution has been a concern since many decades .But, radioactive pollution of water is newly emerging threat. Recently, radioactive contamination and associated health impacts have been reported in many parts of the globe. 

Radioactivity is the phenomenon of spontaneous emission of particles or waves from the unstable nuclei of some elements.  

What causes radioactive pollution- 

1)Natural causes– Percolation of naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) from the soil to the aquifer causes groundwater contamination. 

2)Anthropogenic sources– These can be divided into two types-a)Major sources– Nuclear reactors and nuclear warhead experiments, Nuclear submarines, nuclear power houses(which also use water as a coolant) and dumping of radioactive waste. b) Minor sources- Application of radioisotopes in industries and scientific laboratories, 

How these sources contaminate water 

Dumping of these radioactive wastes in surface waterbodies causes water pollution. However, Radioactive contamination is more prevalent in groundwater as compared to surface water since it is much exposed to radioactive elements found in the rocks. 

How does this effect human health 

Small amount of radiation is found in all types of water but the extended amount of radiation is harmful to human health. 

1)Immediate consequences– Distressing skin, lungs, genitals, and causing hair fall. 

2)Long term effects-Exposure to radiation causes various disorders in human physiology, including cancer, leukaemia, genetic mutations and chromosomal disruption, etc.Sometimes it can be fatal also 

3)Hereditary disorders -Ionizing radiation induces mutations in germ cells resulting in structural alteration in germ cell DNA that are passed on to offsprings. Example of nuclear accidents- Chernobyl . 

What can be done to prevent this 

Treatment methods like aeration, reverse osmosis, ion exchange and granule carbon adsorption are effective remedial measures for treating the radioactive contaminated water. 

Source-This post is based on article “Radioactive Pollution in water: A global concern for human health” Published in Down to earth on 10 Dec 2021 

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