Today, I’ll continue my review of some of the more common drinking water contaminants with a look at Uranium. I’ll touch on how Uranium can affect water quality and share information on things you can do to minimize your family’s exposure to the contaminant.
Uranium is a naturally occurring radioactive element. It typically gets into our drinking water supply through the erosion of natural deposits. Consuming water containing Uranium at levels in excess of 0 μg/L can cause adverse health effects.
Fortunately, Uranium is one of the drinking water contaminants regulated by the EPA. This means public water companies are required to monitor their water supply for Uranium and work to ensure the water they provide their customers does not exceed the legal limit for the contaminant. However, even with this standard in place, it’s still possible for your tap water to contain excessive amounts of Uranium. Using data from the EPA, I estimated as many as 329 thousand Americans were exposed to water with potentially unsafe Uranium levels at least once from 2010 to 2019.
How Uranium Can Affect Water Quality and Your Health
In regions where Uranium exists in nature, the contaminant can be found occurring naturally in our water supply.
What is Uranium, exactly? Uranium is a radioactive element found in rocks, soil, air, and water.
How can drinking water that contains Uranium affect your health? If you consume water that contains elevated levels of Uranium for a prolonged period, you may develop kidney toxicity, and you could have an increased risk of cancer.
At what level can Uranium cause health problems? Uranium is known to cause adverse health effects when its concentration in drinking water is above 0 μg/L.
In an effort to protect our health, the EPA established legally enforceable standards to limit the amount of Uranium in our drinking water. Public water companies are required to ensure the concentration of Uranium in the water they provide their customers is kept at or below 30 μg/L.
Given available treatment technology, water utility companies should be able to provide drinking water that meets this quality standard. However, 55 public water systems violated the regulatory limit for Uranium in 2019.
Does Your Drinking Water Contain a Harmful Amount of Uranium?
Public water companies are required to provide customers with an annual water quality report, also known as a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR). Inside this report, you’ll find important information about your drinking water, including where it comes from, and whether it tested positive for any regulated contaminants like Uranium.
Most Populated Areas with Violations for Uranium from 2010 to 2019
Ceres, City of
Global Water – Santa Cruz Water Company
City of Lathrop
Elko, City of
Sterling, City of
If you’re curious to know how much Uranium was found in your city’s drinking water, grab a copy of the latest CCR and look for the section of the report that covers “Radionuclides.” Here, you’ll find test results for Uranium as well as other contaminants like Radium and Alpha Particles.
How to Interpret Your Water Quality Report
When looking at your water quality report, you’ll see test results for Uranium reported in Micrograms per Liter (μg/L) or Parts per Billion (ppb). 1 μg/L equals 1 ppb, so 30 μg/L is equivalent to 30 ppb.
Below is an example of what you might see on your annual water quality report if Uranium is detected in your town’s drinking water:
Example Water Quality Report
|MCLG (1)||MCL (2)||Average|
Definitions from the EPA:
1. Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) – The level of a contaminant in drinking water below which there is no known or expected risk to health. MCLGs allow for a margin of safety and are non-enforceable public health goals.
2. Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) – The highest level of a contaminant that is allowed in drinking water. MCLs are set as close to MCLGs as feasible using the best available treatment technology and taking cost into consideration. MCLs are enforceable standards.
In this example, water samples contained an average of 33 ppb of Uranium, exceeding both the public health goal level (MCLG) and the legal limit (MCL) for the contaminant.
Will You Be Notified If Your Water Contains an Unsafe Level of Uranium?
In addition to providing you with an annual quality report, your water company is required by the EPA to notify you if they identify a problem with your drinking water.
If your water company delivers water that could negatively impact your health, they have to notify you of the situation within the timeframe set by the EPA. Depending on the severity of the issue, the company is given 24 hours to 30 days to provide this notice.
If your city’s water exceeds the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for Uranium, your water company will likely be given 30 days to notify you of the violation. Typically, you will receive this notice via the media or through the mail.
What Can You Do to Remove Uranium from Your Tap Water?
Fortunately, if you want to limit your family’s exposure to Uranium, there are some effective options for removing the contaminant from your tap water.
But how can you tell which products work and which ones don’t? Not all in-home water treatment products can remove Uranium from your water. So, if you want peace of mind, I recommend choosing a water treatment product that is third-party tested and verified to be effective at removing Uranium from water.
One such product, the Epic Pure Water Filter Pitcher by Epic Water Filters, was independently verified to remove up to 99.73% of the Uranium 235/238 found in your tap water. This water pitcher device does not require a lengthy setup process, so you can start using it in a matter of minutes.
3 steps for selecting the right water treatment system for your family:
- Review your area’s annual water quality report to find out what’s in your drinking water.
- Determine which contaminants you’d like to reduce from your water.
- Select a water treatment product that is third-party tested and verified to work effectively against those contaminants you’d like to reduce from your tap water.
Just remember, no matter which water treatment product you choose, you need to make sure to perform the routine maintenance suggested by the manufacturer. This will help keep the device in proper working order and limit your family’s exposure to Uranium.
- Uranium (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry)
- National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (EPA)
Date: May 29, 2020
- Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS) Federal Reporting Services (EPA)
Date: May 20, 2020