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radiation warning

Radiation an issue for Guanajuato water

Study finds levels 300% over permitted standards in San José Iturbide

A study carried out last October by the National Nuclear Research Institute (ININ) has confirmed the presence of alpha radiation at 300% above permissible levels in the water supply of the Guanajuato town of San José Iturbide.

For geohydrology expert Joel Carrillo the danger is not so much drinking the water but being exposed to it. Inhaling its vapors while taking a shower every day for six to 10 years, sometimes even less, is enough to be fatal. And what’s worse, he said, once its effects are noticed it’s too late to do anything.

The ININ report is also worrisome because in just 24 months Guanajuato went from 14th place to fourth in the number of diagnosed cancer cases in children.

The rapid growth of those cases has been defined by some as the clearest sign of a sanitary crisis. According to several reports, studies and analyses, the region’s water supply is polluted with arsenic, fluoride and now radioactivity.

This pollution implies two major health risks: dental and skeletal fluorosis and renal ailments. As many as 11,000 cases of the former have been reported in the area of the state known as the Cuenca de Independencia in the last 15 years. As for the latter, Guanajuato ranks in fifth place nationwide for the number of reported cases.

The effects of the contaminated water could extend well beyond state boundaries because businesses such as Pfizer, Colgate-Palmolive and Ferrero Rocher use the same water supply.

“The radiation, the fluoride and the arsenic all originate in the same kind of volcanic rock,” explained Carrillo, who is certain that many more aquifers in the region, if analyzed, would present the same levels of radioactivity.

“These rocks are found from the Jalisco region to the north, to the broader region of the Western Sierra Madre.”

Other studies have shown that of 46 artesian wells in the area, 31 have fluoride levels above those permitted, and 14 have levels of arsenic that exceed both domestic and international standards.

These conditions are only made worse by high radioactivity, whose origin — as with the two other pollutants — is the overexploitation of aquifers, which exposes rock that, once desiccated, releases a highly volatile mineral called erionite, which is the origin of the radiation poisoning.

At least 14 of 45 deaths by cancer in the region between 2000 and 2012 have been linked to the presence of traces of erionite in the environment.

National Water Commission data shows that Guanajuato is the “most perforated” state in Mexico, having 27,000 (almost 30%) of the country’s 90,000 water wells. The most exploited aquifers are those that supply the municipalities of León, Celaya and Irapuato.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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