Alpha particles
EPA Designation Regulated
EPA Classification Radionuclides
EPA Levels 1,2 none7 ---------- zero MCLG (mg/L)
15 picocuries per Liter (pCi/L) MCLG (mg/L)
Alternative Names none
Sources Erosion of natural deposits of certain minerals that are radioactive and may emit a form of radiation known as alpha radiation
An alpha particle is identical to a helium nucleus having two protons and two neutrons. It is a relatively heavy, high-energy particle, with a positive charge of +2 from its two protons. Alpha particles have a velocity in air of approximately one-twentiet

Overview

An alpha particle is identical to a helium nucleus having two protons and two neutrons. It is a relatively heavy, high-energy particle, with a positive charge of +2 from its two protons. Alpha particles have a velocity in air of approximately one-twentieth the speed of light, depending upon the individual particle's energy.

Health Effects

The health effects of alpha particles depend heavily upon how exposure takes place. External exposure (external to the body) is of far less concern than internal exposure, because alpha particles lack the energy to penetrate the outer dead layer of skin. However, if alpha emitters have been inhaled, ingested (swallowed), or absorbed into the blood stream, sensitive living tissue can be exposed to alpha radiation. The resulting biological damage increases the risk of cancer; in particular, alpha radiation is known to cause lung cancer in humans when alpha emitters are inhaled. The greatest exposures to alpha radiation for average citizens comes from the inhalation of radon and its decay products, several of which also emit potent alpha radiation.

EPA Data Source: Alpha particles

EPA Definitions:

1Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) - The level of a contaminant in drinking water below which there is no known or expected risk to health. MCLGs allow for a margin of safety and are non-enforceable public health goals.

Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) - The highest level of a contaminant that is allowed in drinking water. MCLs are set as close to MCLGs as feasible using the best available treatment technology and taking cost into consideration. MCLs are enforceable standards.

Maximum Residual Disinfectant Level Goal (MRDLG) - The level of a drinking water disinfectant below which there is no known or expected risk to health. MRDLGs do not reflect the benefits of the use of disinfectants to control microbial contaminants.

(TT) Treatment Technique - A required process intended to reduce the level of a contaminant in drinking water.

Maximum Residual Disinfectant Level (MRDL) - The highest level of a disinfectant allowed in drinking water. There is convincing evidence that addition of a disinfectant is necessary for control of microbial contaminants.

2 Units are in milligrams per liter (mg/L) unless otherwise noted. Milligrams per liter are equivalent to parts per million.