Frequent Questions

Is the risk of getting cancer the same for both short-term and long-term radionuclide exposure through drinking water?

The likelihood of developing cancer or genetic mutations from short-term exposure to the concentrations of radionuclides found in drinking water supplies is negligible. However, long-term exposures may result in increased risks of genetic disorders and other ailments such as cancer, pre-cancerous lesions, benign tumors, and congenital defects. For example, an individual that is exposed to relatively high levels of radium-228 (e.g., 20 pCi/L) in drinking water over the course of a lifetime is projected to have a significantly increased chance of developing fatal cancer (roughly a one in one thousand increased risk if exposed to radium-228 at 20 pCi/L over a lifetime of 70 years) (65 FR 76708, 76720; December 7, 2000). For more information about the cancer causing effects of radiation see EPA's fact sheets on ionizing radiation and associated health effects at www.epa.gov/radiation/understand/index.html.
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