Zim’s Radiation Protection Authority Adopts New Guidelines For Drinking Water

IN  a move that is likely to boost the quality of drinking water in Zimbabwe’s urban settings as well as reduce the risk of radiation linked health complications, the Radiation Protection Authority of Zimbabwe (RPAZ) has adopted the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines on drinking water quality.

By Michael Gwarisa

According to studies, high doses of ionizing radiation in water has been linked to organ damage and blood diseases or neurologic disorders.

In an interview with HealthTimes, the Authority’s Spokesperson, Chamunorwa Murava said they had adopted World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines on drinking water quality, specifically the Management of Radioactivity in Drinking Water.

Access to safe water is essential for human health and economic benefit, consumption, food production and industrial use require water quality to be controlled and monitored. Radioactivity in water could be a source of exposure to humans if not assessed to establish that the activity concentrations of radionuclides are within permitted levels,” said Murava.

He added that National requirements adopted the WHO guidelines/standards for radioactivity in water to ensure the health and safety of people who use water from these sites.

“Waste water and water purification processes fall under the above regulation and as such these facilities are expected to take measures to assess levels of radioactivity. Apart from other parameters, water sources may contain radionuclides as a result of human activity or natural radionuclide’s belonging to the uranium and thorium decay serious and potassium-40.

“Naturally occurring radioactive nuclides present in the environment get dissolved in water during rain and infiltration of water in the ground and affect water bodies such as dams and ground water. The main contributors are Uranium and Thorium elements. Artificial radioactive materials may also be present in the form of Cs-137, 241A and 90Sr in various concentrations as a result of human activities and industrial processes.”

According to experts however, no harmful radiological health effects are expected from consumption or use of water if the concentrations of radionuclides are below the World Health Organisation guidance levels.

“Radiation exposure at low to moderate doses may however increase the long-term incidence of cancer and genetic malformations, this can easily be excluded by development and implementation of a cost-effective radioactivity monitoring plan to confirm the safety of water.

“To ensure this level of safety is adhered to, the Authority has set up requirements to have radioactivity analysis undertaken at the waste water and water purification plants within your jurisdiction. This is in compliance with the requirements of Statutory Instrument 190 of 2020 (Radiation Protection (Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material) (Amendment) Regulations, 2020, No. 1) and Statutory Instrument 99 of 2013 (Radiation Protection (NORM) Regulations, 2013, published in Statutory Instrument 99 of 2013),” added Murava.

According to Murava, the regulations addresses the gap that exist as water analysis has only been limited to microbial, chemical and other acceptability aspects.

“The lack of measures for analysis of water to ascertain the level of radioactivity in line with WHO guidance levels meant such facilities could not justify with utmost certainly the safety of water in as far as the radiological aspects are concerned.

“Such facilities are therefore required to undertake assessments and take remedial action should this be necessary, including development of monitoring program. This will strengthen existing water monitoring program and ensure all health and safety risks arising from use of water are addressed in line with international best practice.”

Meanwhile, the Implementation of the program will include capacity building of the relevant water supply sources and the subsequent assessments and analysis of water for radioactivity. Once the initial assessment has been undertaken the results shall be used to develop and implement monitoring plan that will be integrated into the water quality monitoring program.

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