Monitoring and reporting of environmental radioactivity is one of the EU Member States' obligations according to Article 35-36 of the EURATOM Treaty.
It is of course important that values obtained in Member States' laboratories are precise and reproducible. Inter-laboratory comparison (ILC) studies are a key quality assurance tool to evaluate the quality of data obtained and to further improve measurements. Proficiency test participation is recommended by ISO Standard 17025 and to obtain and maintain accreditation. ILCs require a prior good knowledge of the types of samples that are analysed and reference values of ILCs need to gain acceptance by all participants. Water including mineral water is an essential element for human nutrition and needs to comply with legislative requirements on its purity including recommended values for radioactivity doses.
A key task of the Radionuclide Metrology Sector of the Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements (IRMM) of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) is to carry out regular ILCs to check the quality and comparability of data on radioactivity measurements in the environment including food. JRC scientists undertook a preliminary radioanalytical survey studying the naturally occurring alpha emitting radionuclides in bottled mineral waters from the European market. This survey showed that most mineral waters complied with the total indicative dose recommend by the EC/WHO for drinking water. From those waters, two candidate samples were selected as test items based on their radionuclide composition and total dissolved solids for an ILC that was subsequently organised by the JRC-IRMM.
Read more in: V. Jobbagy et al., Radiochemical characterization of mineral waters for a European interlaboratory comparison, Microchem. J. (2013) 110:675–680, doi:10.1016/j.microc.2013.08.008