Radium Found in Americans’ Tap Water

by Chelsea Cozad

Many Americans assume that their tap water is completely safe from harsh chemicals and compounds. However, the tap water for more than 170 million Americans in all 50 states contain the cancer-causing compound radium.

The Environmental Protection Agency has labeled 5 picocuries per liter (pCi/L)–a picocurie is a measure of radioactive decay–as the legal limit of the amount of radium that can be allowed in drinking water. However, this regulation was created over 40 years ago and needs to be revisited.

Radium typically does not pose a threat in small doses; however no amount of exposure can be considered “risk-free.” As the amount of radium one is exposed to increases, so does the risk of developing cancer or other life-threatening problems.  However, even with the low allowed amount of radium in Americans’ drinking water, scientists estimate that it will still be responsible for 7 cases of cancer per 100,000 people who have been exposed to the compound in drinking water.

As common as radium is, radium in drinking water is much more common than one might think. Water utility companies and the EWG’s Tap Water Database gives records of whether or not one’s water is contaminated by radium. If the water is tainted by high levels of radium, there are water filters on the market that are certified to remove radium.


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