How to Remove Radioactive Iodine-131 from Drinking Water

Use a water softener, carbon filter, reverse osmosis system, and boil the water in a way that blows the radioactive steam out of your environment.

By Jeff McMahon

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends reverse osmosis water treatment to remove radioactive isotopes that emit beta-particle radiation. But iodine-131, a beta emitter, is typically present in water as a dissolved gas, and reverse osmosis is known to be ineffective at capturing gases.

A combination of technologies, however, may remove most or all of the iodine-131 that finds its way into tap water, all available in consumer products for home water treatment.

First, the standard disclaimers: Every government agency involved in radiation monitoring—the EPA, FDA, USDA, NRC, CDC, etc.—has stressed that the radiation now reaching the United States has been found at levels thousands of times lower than standards of health concern. When it found iodine-131 in drinking water samples from Boise, Idaho and Richland, Washington this weekend, the EPA declared:

An infant would have to drink almost 7,000 liters of this water to receive a radiation dose equivalent to a day’s worth of the natural background radiation exposure we experience continuously from natural sources of radioactivity in our environment.”

But not everyone accepts the government’s reassurances. Notably, Physicians for Social Responsibility has insisted there is no safe level of exposure to radionuclides, regardless of the fact that we encounter them naturally:

There is no safe level of radionuclide exposure, whether from food, water or other sources. Period,” said Jeff Patterson, DO, immediate past president of Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Exposure to radionuclides, such as iodine-131 and cesium-137, increases the incidence of cancer. For this reason, every effort must be taken to minimize the radionuclide content in food and water.”

via Physicians for Social Responsibility,

No matter where you stand on that debate, you might be someone who simply prefers not to ingest anything that escaped from a damaged nuclear reactor. If so, here’s what we know:

Reverse Osmosis

The EPA recommends reverse osmosis water treatment for most kinds of radioactive particles. Iodine-131 emits a small amount of gamma radiation but much larger amounts of beta radiation, and so is considered a beta emitter:

Reverse osmosis has been identified by EPA as a “best available technology” (BAT) and Small System Compliance Technology (SSCT) for uranium, radium, gross alpha, and beta particles and photon emitters. It can remove up to 99 percent of these radionuclides, as well as many other contaminants (e.g., arsenic, nitrate, and microbial contaminants). Reverse osmosis units can be automated and compact making them appropriate for small systems.

via EPA, Radionuclides in Drinking Water

However, EPA designed its recommendations for the contaminants typically found in municipal water systems, so it doesn’t specify Iodine-131 by name. The same document goes on to say, “Reverse osmosis does not remove gaseous contaminants such as carbon dioxide and radon.”

Iodine-131 escapes from damaged nuclear plants as a gas, and this is why it disperses so quickly through the atmosphere. It is captured as a gas in atmospheric water, falls to the earth in rain and enters the water supply.

Read full post at Forbes

9 responses to “How to Remove Radioactive Iodine-131 from Drinking Water

  1. I have NEVEr heard that you can actually WASH radionuclides off your food – and I think it is a myth, because the plant uptakes the nuclides from the soils and the rains, thereby bioconcentrating the materials in its cells. Then it simply goes up the food chain. Washing it off? Don’t think so.

    • Think so.

      In the same manner that workers and you should take showers when you get home, especially when it’s raining, to wash off radioisotopes.

      If not applicable yet, it would be a good habit if and when the situation gets worse.

      However, I see your point. A good information source (using some discernment about the offtopics) is nutrimedical’s podcast, google it.

  2. Well if the GOVERNMENT says it’s so, it MUST be so!

  3. Pingback: The Progressive Mind » How to Remove Radioactive Iodine-131 from Drinking Water | Food Freedom

  4. I’m concerned about the radiation & other bad stuff in drinking water. So I bought a Berkey system the other day. It claims that the black berkey element removes radiologicals (radon 222).

    About the food garden, I started too late in getting green house built, so as to have better control. I can’t control the rain quality & haven’t found radioactive removal water filter for garden hose yet. I’ve been giving my chickens the berkey treated water since I do eat them as well as the eggs. But I’m concerned about the grass they eat, since the grass has been watered by rain (which may be contaminated).

  5. Btw… Good blog. I’ll print out the helpful links on side bar especially about the green house. This “staying healthy” is very expensive.

  6. thanks for this post. do you know a system that you could share that does all 3 of these things?

  7. Why use reverse osmosis for to remove radioactive iodine from drinking water? How does it help?

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