Water Pollution Tracked With Radioisotope

Sept. 22, 2000
A University of Missouri-Columbia (MU) chemistry professor says a radioisotope used in diagnosing various also may be the best way to track pollution in water. By using technetium-99m, a radioactive material with a six hour half life, pollution spills could be traced.

"A dye is not a good tracer if the water is heavily colored, so we were asked to find a good alternative," said Professor Silvia Jurisson. "Technetium-99m is very easy to track since there's not a lot of background radiation that could create problems, and it has a six-hour half life. After 24 hours, this isotope is virtually gone."

Following several tests of various radioactive molecules, Jurisson discovered that technetium-99m in the form of pertechnetate was the best. (Pertechnetate is used in the medical imaging of organs in the human body.)

"The molecule is great because it emits a very low energy gamma ray, and water is a great natural shield against radiation," Jurisson said. "In addition, you only need to use a very small amount as a tracer for the pollution."

(Source: Environment News Service)

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