There are more reasons to filter tap water by the day.
As if it wasn’t bad enough that millions of people drink tap water with high amounts of lead and other heavy metals, now a new report reveals that the tap water of 170 million U.S. people contains radioactive elements that are linked to cancer and other serious health issues, especially for pregnant women.
There are also people who falsify information to hide these health threats from the public.
Just one example is President Donald Trump’s original nominee for environmental issues Kathleen Hartnett White, former chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, who admitted that the commission faked data to hide the fact that there were high radiation levels in water across Texas communities. Despite this, she was still nominated for the position. Thankfully, she withdrew her nomination to head the Council on Environmental Quality on February 4th.
But not before her nomination prompted environmental groups to dig deeper and uncover a lot of information about the radioactive tap water threat in America.
Carcinogenic Radiation In Water
Radioactive elements end up as contaminants in water from the Earth’s crust, but also from mining oil and gas. They produce radiation that is “ionizing” – meaning it releases electrons from atoms and turns them into ions. The EPA classifies this type of radiation as carcinogenic.
Ionized radiation at high doses can have the following adverse health effects:
- May cause cancer in different organs
- May cause birth defects, impaired fetus growth, and damaged brain development
The Most Common Radioactive Elements and Their Health Concerns
The EWG found out which elements are the most common contaminants in tap water and which health concerns there are with each of them.
- Radium 226 and radium-228 are linked to bone and other cancers. The cancer risk at the legal limit is 7 per 100,000 people.
- Radon is associated with lung cancer when inhaled.
- Uranium can cause kidney damage and cancers. Cancer risk at legal limit is 4.6 per 100,000 people.
- Tritium can lead to cancer; at legal limit the risk is 5 per 100,000 people.
- Strontium-90 is linked to bone cancer and leukemia with 5 new cases out of 100,000 people affected at legal limits.
- Many of these are found above legal limits.
Who Is Affected by Radium Water Contamination?
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested almost 50,000 water utilities nationwide between 2010 and 2015 and found that over 22,000 of them have radium in the water. These utilities serve more than 170 million people.
California was found to have the highest number of people affected, followed by: Texas, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona, and Colorado. Texas also had the most widespread contamination.
Radium-226 and radium-228 levels, especially, exceeded the federal limits. This is a big deal as these increase the risk of cancer. For example, in some Texas communities, the levels of radium would increase a lifetime risk of cancer of 1 in 400. Other radioactive elements increase cancer risk in various amounts from 2 to 7 in 100,000.
You can search the EWG contamination map to see if you may be one of the affected. The map also tells the average radium found in each utility per liter of water, and which radioactive elements were found.
It will also tell which sources each element comes from: agriculture, industrial, treatment byproducts, runoff, or naturally occurring. Regardless of the source, all are linked to cancer.
How To Protect Yourself from Radioactivity
- Check the EWG’s tap water database for radioactive elements.
- Learn about the best natural foods for preventing damage from radiation exposure
- Check on radon if you live in an area where there is radon in soil.
- Purchase a water filter or a whole home filtration system; if you are specifically looking to filter out as much radiation as possible be sure to call or email the manufacturer before buying.