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  • Writer's pictureTap Water Facts

Uranium Found in Tap Water Across America

Uranium is commonly found in soil. Yes, the same nuclear, radioactive material they make bombs out of can be found in the tap water of millions of Americans.

It enters local water, air and food supplies in varying concentrations through leaching from natural deposits, its release in mill tailings, emissions from nuclear industry, dissolution in phosphate fertilizers and combustion of coal and other fuels.

So what’s wrong with having radioactive elements in our drinking water? Seems like a silly question, but I guess it’s important to know.

Uranium exposure can result in both radiological and chemical toxicity. While most ingested uranium is excreted by the body (via urine and feces), small amounts can be absorbed and carried through the bloodstream to internal organs. Scientists call this bioaccumulation. Uranium toxicity can affect various organs and bones, however no organ is more sensitive to uranium than the kidneys. When uranium in the bloodstream is filtered by the kidneys, the compounds can cause (sometimes severe) damage to the organs’ cells.

In 2015, the city of Modesto, with a half-million residents, spent more than $500,000 to blend water from one contaminated well to dilute the uranium to safe levels. The city has retired a half-dozen other wells with excess levels of uranium. In 2018, potentially unsafe levels

"We should not have any doubts as to whether drinking water with uranium in it is a problem or not. It is," said Doug Brugge, professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. "The larger the population that's drinking this water, the more people that are going to be affected."

In fact, according to a 2018 report from the Environmental Working Group, drinking water for more than 170 million Americans contains radioactive elements at levels that may increase the risk of cancer based on analysis of 2010 to 2015 test results from public water systems nationwide.  

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