Naturally-occurring radionuclides such as uranium (U) and radium (Ra) are present in water sources. This is a result of the groundwater dilution of minerals rich in radioactive isotopes.
Radionuclides can be absorbed into the bloodstream and accumulate in tissues. World Health Organisation (WHO) studies show that there is a relationship between exposure to low or moderate doses of radioactivity through water and the occurrence of cancer in the medium term. Indeed, radon (Rn) is the second biggest cause of lung cancer after tobacco. Radionuclides in drinking water are also linked to liver damage, leukaemia, bone cancer and stomach cancer.
The 2013 EU Directive on radioactive substances in drinking water sets out requirements for protection of the public from these substances. However, radioactivity in water is still not systematically monitored at European level and there is a need for greater awareness of the issue.
Reverse osmosis (RO) is the most commonly-used technology in wastewater treatment plants for removing radionuclides. However, it has a very high carbon footprint and generates large volumes of reject water containing radioactivity, which requires further treatment.
Life ALCHEMIA aims to demonstrate integrated and cost effective solutions for removing naturally-occurring radioactivity from drinking water. It will test four different configurations at pilot plants in Spain and Estonia. These will be based on the use of bed filters and hydrous manganese oxide (HMO) technology.
Specific objectives are as follows:
Life ALCHEMIA will promote the protection of human health against radioactive substances in drinking water, contributing directly to the implementation of 2013 EU Directive on radioactive substances in drinking water.