The groundwater at Jebel Hafeet and other areas in Al Ain has higher radioactivity levels, says Ala Aldahan, a professor of geoscience at UAE University. Paolo Rossetti for The National
The groundwater at Jebel Hafeet and other areas in Al Ain has higher radioactivity levels, says Ala Aldahan, a professor of geoscience at UAE University. Paolo Rossetti for The National

Radioactivity levels in UAE’s groundwater revealed

ABU DHABI // Scientists have announced the initial results of a unique study into radioactivity levels in the UAE’s groundwater.

Researchers from the UAE University’s geology department in Al Ain say that most radioactive isotopes are present at levels below those recommended by experts.

The project, started in 2012 and initially covering the eastern and northern areas, first measured concentrations of radioactive isotopes such as radon-222 and radium-226.

Groundwater samples were taken from 100 wells in areas where water is often used for agriculture.

Ala Aldahan, a professor of geoscience at UAEU, says the work is important for two reasons.

“The first is to form baseline data on groundwater, which is missing in the Emirates and most of the Gulf, and to find if there’s any environmental impact in different parts of the Emirates,” Prof Aldahan says.

“We did find some of these areas have high radioactivity, such as Jebel Hafeet and Al Ain.”

Prof Aldahan says the groundwater in this area, which is not used for drinking, shows elevated levels of a radioactive isotope of radon, but this is naturally occurring.

He says radioactivity as the result of human activity has been detected at “a very low level” and does not pose a hazard.

The work so far covers about a quarter of the UAE. By the end of next year, the researchers hope to have covered the whole of the country, although samples will be fairly widely spaced in many areas. Theys are making maps to show the results of their analysis.

“There are many other isotopes that need to be analysed to understand the scope of human activity,” Prof Aldahan says.

The researchers will be expanding their search to isotopes from hospitals or any other radioactivity in the area, such as waste.

Among the other researchers is Prof Ahmed Murad, dean of the College of Science, who says that most isotopes are present at levels below those allowed by the World Health Organisation. He says the mapping is “the first of its kind in the region”.

Dr Dalal Al Shamsi and Dr Saber Hussein at UAEU also took part, while analysis of the groundwater was done at the Centre for Nuclear Technologies of the Technical University of Denmark, supervised by Prof Xiaolin Hou.

The research is funded by the Emirates Foundation and UAEU.

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