Is The Water In My Home Radioactive? You’ll Want to Read This

by Jay | Updated on April 21st, 2023

According to a survey by our Environmental Working Group (EWG) friends, more than 170 million Americans drink tainted tap water.

Radioactivity is not frightening in how movies and popular culture portray it. Unfortunately, it is considerably more stealthy and insidious. Radiation can inflict irreversible damage to your body that can go undetected for years, if not generations.

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In our daily lives, we are exposed to natural radiation like bananas

Radioactive particles, often known as radionuclides, are found in plants and animals, most commonly as potassium-40 or radium-226.

Increased radiation exposure happens in our water or air; however, nuclear power plants, mining operations, or laboratories leak radioactive elements into the environment.

Because radiation in the environment (especially in drinking water) is significantly more common than most people realize.

Any process that emits energy from electromagnetic waves or particles, such as light or sound, is referred to as “radiation.”

When we talk about radioactive particles, we’re talking about ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation causes an atom or molecule to lose electrons and become charged; this charged molecule is referred to as an ion.

It might become radioactive when an atom is unstable and wishes to dissipate some of its energy to achieve a more stable state. Isotopes are the various “forms” of stable or unstable radioactive elements. These radioactive isotopes are distinguished by their mass, which is appended to the end of the element name, such as Uranium-238.

What exactly is radium?

Radium is a naturally occurring radioactive element found in the Earth’s crust. It can leak into water supplies from rocks and dirt. In addition, ionizing radiation is produced by radioactive materials, which release free radicals that can damage DNA and cause cancer.

What is the prevalence of radioactive tap water?

A recent Environmental Working Group analysis discovered significant quantities of radium in the tap water of more than 170 million Americans across all fifty states.

The Environmental Working Group collated test data from nearly 48,000 community water systems and plotted the presence of radium. In addition, more than 20,000 utilities reported the presence of radium in their water from 2010 to 2015. (Check out this interactive map to see if your utility is included.)

What are Alpha and Beta Particles in ionizing radiation?

Radioactive particles are found in rocks and soil, which typically serve as a pathway for radioactive particles to reach groundwater. Alpha and beta particles are the two types of radioactive particles found in water.

What are Alpha Particles?

Two protons and two neutrons make up an alpha particle. Radium-226, radon-222, uranium-238, polonium-210, and lead-206 are common instances in water. Outside of the skin, alpha particles cannot penetrate. When consumed, however, they become active inside your body and might cause harm.

Do you want to look for alpha particles? Then, take a look at this exercise: Water Alpha Radiation Test.

What are Beta Particles?

Beta particles are radioactive particles composed of a single electron or positron. Strontium-90 and potassium-40 are two common instances in water. Beta particles can penetrate the top layer of skin and produce burns.

Because beta particles have more energy and are smaller than alpha particles, they are more likely to inflict internal damage than alpha particles. As a result, beta particles can penetrate deeper into body tissue than alpha particles.

Is it possible for water to be radioactive?

Water can be radioactive.

We are concerned about naturally occurring radiation and other radioactive particles entering the water from rock formations near mining sites, nuclear power stations, and laboratories.

Radon, in particular, exists in soils as a gas that can dissolve into groundwater or enter homes as a gas through the basement. Radon in the air is significantly more hazardous than radon in water. On the other hand, high radon levels in drinking water may suggest elevated radon levels in the air and should be taken seriously.

Picocuries are the units used to measure radioactivity. The Environmental Protection Agency has set a legal limit of five picocuries per liter of water for the total level of the two most common isotopes of radium (radium-226 and radium-228). However, between 2010 and 2015, 158 water utilities in 27 states reported radium levels over the federal legal limit.

No, not always. Federal drinking water standards are not merely to preserve public health. The EPA also considers the cost and practicality of removing or reducing the contamination.

If removing a contaminant is expensive, the legal limit may be significantly greater than the level deemed safe. Furthermore, many legal limits are founded on decades of scientific research. For example, the EPA radium limit was established more than four decades ago and has not changed.

Is there a safe radium level in tap water?

The ideal situation would be for tap water to be fully devoid of radium and other carcinogens, but this is not the case. As a result, scientists have set acceptable health guidelines for toxins that represent a low health risk.

The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment established new public health targets for radium in drinking water in 2006.

These objectives are not legally binding, but they indicate radium levels that offer only a little risk – typically a one-in-a-million increase in the likelihood of contracting cancer during a lifetime. For example, the California public health goals for radium-226 and radium-228–0.05 picocuries and 0.019 picocuries, respectively–are at least 100 times lower than the federal limits.

Is it safe to drink radioactive water?

Different radiation dosages have different health impacts. Drinking radionuclide-contaminated water exposes you to very low doses of radiation every day. You are more likely to develop cancer if you consume radionuclide-contaminated water daily for many years.

How can you tell if water is radioactive?

Gross alpha activity is measured during the initial water testing to identify the existence of radioactivity. Alpha radiation is a sort of particle that is emitted when certain radioactive compounds decay. Additional testing may be required to detect specific forms of radium, such as Radium 226 and Radium 228.

Is it possible to test radioactivity in water?

Yes! Furthermore, you should test your water because there are no visible symptoms of radioactive particles in drinking water.

While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) establishes radioactivity limits for public drinking water systems, well water is uncontrolled.

Furthermore, well water is at a significantly greater danger of radioactive contamination.

According to a USGS report, 65 percent of wells examined as part of a national study contained radioactive radon at quantities close to the EPA’s recommended threshold of 300 picocuries per liter (pCi/L).

Tap Score‘s high-precision laboratory water testing packages can assist diagnose any abnormalities that may be hidden in your tap water, from testing collections especially targeted for radiological concerns to broad panels for general water quality health.

Not sure which testing package to select?

The Full Radiation Water Test from Tap Score is the most popular way to test your water for alpha and beta particles from any source, including radium, radon, uranium, strontium, and others. While any of these contaminants can be checked separately, the Full Radiation screening test is recommended unless you are aware of specific concerns.

Even if radioactive particles are discovered in your water, there is still hope. Every Tap Score water test delivers unbiased and individualized treatment recommendations based on what is identified in your water sample.

Treatment experts, chemists, and water quality engineers can show you how to treat your drinking water so that you can be confident that what you’re drinking is safe.

What effects do radioactive particles have on my health?

Unfortunately, radioactive particles in water can potentially cause cancer and even death.

While our skin can protect us from alpha particles in the environment, radiation exposure through water is especially harmful since radioactive materials destroy tissues and organs.

Radioactive particles inflict harm by breaking chemical bonds in molecules, altering our bodies ability to function significantly. If a group of cells critical to bodily function dies, the consequences can be lethal.

Normal cells in the body emit electrons when their connections are broken. This can set off a chain reaction that eventually affects DNA molecules. Mutations occur as a result of DNA damage, which leads to cancer. Furthermore, if germ (sex) cells become altered, cancer can be passed on to children years after the initial exposure.

How do I get radioactive particles out of water?

While numerous common treatment technologies are available, the type of treatment you choose is determined by the type of radiation problem you have. For example, carbon filters and ion exchange are the two basic treatment techniques for radioactive particles in water:

One method to eliminate radium and strontium from drinking water is using carbon filters. However, if radon is present, the filter must be changed regularly because carbon can adsorb radon and lead to increased radiation exposure if radon is allowed to build up. In addition, radon particles may fall out of the filter and back into the water supply as they accumulate.

Uranium can be treated via ion exchange. However, ion exchange generates backwash with significant amounts of radionuclides, making disposal a worry. Learn more about how ion exchange technology works by clicking here.

Can you boil radiation out of water?

Drinking water sources will be tested for safety by scientists, and this is ongoing research. Until those results are released, bottled water is the only water that is free of pollution. Boiling tap water will not remove radioactive particles.


Finally, your type of radiation problem determines the best filtering equipment for you. That is why we always recommend testing your water BEFORE treating it.

Whether you are concerned about lead and arsenic, germs and pathogens, or radiation in your water, knowing what is in it is crucial to select the right filter system for your water’s particular chemistry. Unfortunately, different pollutants react differently to treatment technologies, and there is no true “one-size-fits-all” solution.


Jay is a health and wellness enthusiast with expertise in water quality and nutrition. As a knowledgeable advocate for holistic well-being, Jay successfully manages Type 2 Diabetes through informed lifestyle choices. Committed to sharing reliable and authoritative insights, Jay combines firsthand experience with a passion for enhancing health."