Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Did the EPA Dramatically Raise The Allowable Level of Beta Emitters in Water?


I hope that I'm confused on this.

The issue was brought to my attention by someone (Petfish) who posted at Enenews that his/her water company reported in their water quality statement that the EPA allows 50 picocuries per liter of beta emitters in water.

I remember that Jeff MacMahon at Fobes had posted in April of 2011 that the EPA allows 3 picocuries per liter for beta-emitters like Iodine-131:

Jeff MacMahon at Forbes on April 14 2011
"EPA does not allow drinking water to contain more than 3 picoCuries per liter of radioactive istotopes like iodine-131 and cesium-137."

However, when I started looking at current EPA guidelines, I found two separate pages that gave the allowable level for beta-emitters in terms of an exposure level, not a quantitative measurement of the amount of beta-emitters in water.

Both of these links show EPA water levels set at 4mrem a year:

[Exccerpt] "To protect public health, EPA has established drinking water standards for several types of radioactive contaminants combined radium 226/228 (5 pCi/L); beta emitters (4 mrems); gross alpha standard (15 pCi/L); and uranium (30 µg/L)"

See table here with same content here:

Arclight, a commentator at Enenews, found the following link explaining the measurement equivalent for 4 mrem

"EPA has established a maximum contaminant level of 4 millirem per year for beta particle and photon radioactivity from man-made radionuclide's in drinking water. Cesium-137 would be covered under this MCL. The average concentration of cesium-137 which is assumed to yield 4 mrem/year is 200 picocuries per liter. If other radionuclide's which emit beta particles and photon radioactivity are present, the sum of the annual dose from all the radionuclide's must not exceed 4 mrem/year."

Majia here: I am hoping I'm confused on this.

Did the EPA recently raise the acceptable level of beta-emitters in our water from 3 picocuries a liter to 200 picocuries a liter?

I hope that I'm missing something and am confused in my analysis.

Please correct me if I'm wrong in my conclusion.


The FDA has even higher levels for food and milk:


The specific Derived Intervention Levels are here: http://www.fda.gov/downloads/NewsEvents/PublicHealthFocus/UCM251056.pdf

The specific “FDA derived intervention level or criterion for each radionuclide group” are as follows “for all components of the diet” for Strontium 90, Iodine 131 and Plutonium 238 and 239
Sr-90 160 Bq/kg
I-131 170 Bq/kg
Pu-238 + Pus 239 + Am 241 is 2 Bq/kg
Cs-134 + 137 1200 Bq/kg

These guidelines state that the “alternate units for milk” in picocuries per liter are the following:
SR-90 4400 picocuries per liter
I-131 4700 picocuries per liter
Cs-134 + Cs-137 33,000 picocuries per liter
These are the levels tolerated in milk by the US FDA.


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