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Radioactive Contaminants in U.S. Drinking Water and Water Quality Disparities

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Document pages: 14 pages

Abstract: Radioactive contaminants, such as radium, radon, and uranium isotopes are naturally present in drinking water, and gas and oil extraction like hydraulic fracturing can exasperate radionuclide leakage into groundwater. The concentration of radionuclide in drinking water is dependent upon the water source and the underlying lithology within the aquifers. In United States, the Environmental Protection Agency regulates the level of radioactivity in drinking water via the gross alpha test, which is conducted to measure the emitted alpha particles as a result of the radioactive elements’ natural decay. Radionuclides, such as radium and uranium, are known to cause bone cancer and other forms of cancer. Communities with crippling water purification infrastructure may be at a higher risk of being exposed to radionuclides, and this is a significant environmental justice concern. The radionuclide concentrations for the metropolitan or most populated city in each state in the United States and its territories (Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands and Guam) were analyzed and correlated to the annual household income, to determine any disparities that maybe present. Lower income communities had elevated levels of radionuclides when compared to higher income communities which had lower frequency in elevated radionuclide contaminants.

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