AW: [ RadSafe ] European Union (EU) Drinking Water Limit for Tritium

Franz Schönhofer franz.schoenhofer at
Tue May 22 16:43:49 CDT 2007

Dear Leo,

Yes, I am a European collegue and even more important I have been working on
the radioactivity of drinking water for probably twenty years. On the other
hand I am a kind of "persona non grata" on RADSAFE, because my messages are
monitored and some times are distributed on the RADSAFE list up to two days
later. The recent attempt of a US company for recruiting RSO's for the US
Army for duty in Iraq was not at all delayed. So do not be surprised, that
you will receive my mail to you more or less immediately and - if at all - a
second time with a large delay via the RADSAFE list.

The EU drinking water directive has no "limits" for radioactive
contamination. The indicative dose given excludes - please be careful - not
only T, K-40 and radon, but also radon progeny!!!! I suppose you know, that
Po-210 and Pb-210 have very high dose conversion factors. There is a
recommendation for the member states to set MPC for Rn-222, Pb-210 and
Po-210. A few member states have followed this recommendation, the
Scandinavian ones had them already before in force. They are not uniform,
but differ from member state to member state. Considerations on setting
MPC's are done in a few EU Member States. 

Now to the "Indicative Concentration" of Tritium. Here I have to disappoint
you -there is (in my opinion) no scientific background for the 100 Bq/L.
There was a severe quarrel between the European Parliament and the European
Commission, which lasted for years, concerning the indicative concentration
of tritium. Especially the green fraction of the European Parliament did not
really care about doses, but as is known very well from other issues, they
wanted to reduce the "numbers" to sell this as their success and achievement
for protecting the population. They produced numbers of 75 Bq/l, to be
reduced to 25 Bq/l within a few years. Needless to say, that in Europe you
cannot find nowadays any drinking water which would even come close to 25
Bq/l. In Austria all drinking water is below 2 Bq/l. 

Having said this, I can only answer to your last question, that there is no
EU dose limit for drinking water. The concept of indicative dose is the
following: In case the indicative dose would be exceeded (very unlikely in
European drinking water supplies), then the competent authorities have to
decide, whether countermeasures are necessary and the situation of the water
supply (nitrate, arsenic, coli-bacteria etc. etc.) has to be taken into

I hope I could express the situation in my bad English! Feel free to contact
me again in case of any further questions!

Best wishes,


Franz Schoenhofer, PhD
MinRat i.R.
Habicherg. 31/7
A-1160 Wien/Vienna

-----Ursprüngliche Nachricht-----
Von: radsafe-bounces at [mailto:radsafe-bounces at] Im Auftrag
von Leo M. Lowe
Gesendet: Dienstag, 22. Mai 2007 21:59
An: radsafe at
Betreff: [ RadSafe ] European Union (EU) Drinking Water Limit for Tritium

Some questions for our European colleagues:

I understand that the EU drinking water limits are based on an 
"indicator dose" of 0.1 mSv/y, excluding tritium, K-40 and radon, and 
an indicator parameter of 100 Bq/L for tritium.

What is the basis for the 100 Bq/L value for tritium?  How was it 
derived? Is it just an indicator that non-background sources are 
potentially present?  Is there a readily-available citation that 
describes this?

Also, if 0.1 mSv/y is just an "indicator dose", what is the EU dose 
limit for drinking water?

Feel free to respond directly to me.


Leo M. Lowe, Ph.D., P.Phys.

SENES Consultants Limited
llowe at
Tel:  905-764-9380
Fax: 905-764-9386

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