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Safe water: simpler method for analyzing radium in water samples cuts testing time
Date:8/28/2007

A simpler technique for testing public drinking water samples for the presence of the radioactive element radium can dramatically reduce the amount of time required to conduct the sampling required by federal regulations. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved use of the new testing method.

The technique developed by Bernd Kahn, director of the Georgia Tech Research Institutes (GTRI) Environmental Radiation Center (ERC), and GTRI senior research scientist Robert Rosson became advantageous when the EPA established new radionuclide drinking water standards in 2000.

While radium is found at low concentrations in soil, water, plants and food, the greatest potential for human exposure to radium is through drinking water. Research shows that inhalation, injection, ingestion or body exposure to relatively large amounts of radium can cause cancer and other disorders. Since radium is chemically similar to calcium, it has the potential to cause harm by replacing calcium in bones.

As a result, drinking water systems are now required to sample and report on the amounts of two isotopes, radium-226 and radium-228, that are sometimes found in drinking water supplies.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources recognized the applicability and benefits of our method because of the new rules and proposed it to the EPA in 2002, said Kahn.

The new method developed at GTRI requires only two steps. First, hydrochloric acid and barium chloride are added to a sample of water and heated to boiling. Then concentrated sulfuric acid is added and the radium precipitate is collected, dried and weighed. The samples are then counted with a gamma-ray spectrometry system to determine the content of radium-226 and radium-228.

A gamma-ray spectrometer determines the energy and the count rate of gamma rays emitted by radioactive substances. When these emissions are collected and analyzed, an energy spectrum ca
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Contact: John Toon
jtoon@gatech.edu
404-894-6986
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News
Source:Eurekalert

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