Uranium is a natural radioactive mineral present in nature in certain types of rock such as granite, shale and sandstone. Natural uranium is a combination of uranium 234, uranium 235 and uranium 238; however, uranium 238 accounts for 99.27% of the composition.
As groundwater comes into contact with these rock formations, the mineral may dissolve in the water and move downstream. Not only is uranium leached from natural deposits, but it is released to mill residues in mines, is an emission from the nuclear industry, and is used in phosphate fertilizers.
Wells drilled to draw water from groundwater sources through the bedrock are more likely than other wells to contain higher levels of uranium than is recommended.
Uranium and radon can be removed from drinking water. Given that uranium is an ingested toxin, showering in water with a high concentration of uranium is not considered harmful other than its connection to radon.
The most common household water treatment systems on the market today that will eliminate uranium, radon and other contaminants are:
- Reverse Osmosis System
- Distillation Systems
- Anion Exchange
- Special Absorbent Media (such as titanium dioxide)
Boiling water is not an effective way to remove uranium or radioactive materials, nor is a carbon filter fitted to a faucet or activated by a pitcher.
The Anion system is the most cost-effective and efficient way to remove uranium from your home.This system is very much like a water softener, but is designed and built with a special material especially for uranium.
When purchasing either treatment method, be sure to purchase an appliance that is “NSF certified for radium reduction 226/228”. (The NSF does not grant uranium certification).
4 Proven Methods of Removing Uranium from Water
Reverse Osmosis System
Reverse osmosis water filters are regarded as the most efficient in the market. These systems remove more contaminants from the water than other technologies.
For instance, they effectively remove contaminants such as arsenic, bacteria and viruses, odors and unpleasant tastes, chlorine, heavy metals, nitrates, sediments and uranium. While other technologies eliminate some of these contaminants, there are not as many as reverse osmosis water filters.
With regard to the removal of hydrogen sulphide (cause of odors) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can cause cancer, reverse osmosis treatment of water works well. A reverse osmosis water filter can remove the smallest harmful particles under 0.0001 micron. To put this in perspective, common bacteria and viruses are in the range of 0.1 to 1 micron in size.
Residential reverse osmosis water filters use two types of filter media called thin-film composites (TFCs) and cellulose triacetate (CTAs). Furthermore, when combined with other technologies like activated carbon water filters, they offer the most comprehensive purification. This combination of technologies in RO systems leads to an efficient product.
As far as maintenance is concerned, reverse osmosis water filters require the replacement of filters, especially the membrane, like any other technology. Generally, filter membranes last several years (1-4), whereas pre-filters such as activated carbon filters and sediment filters need to be replaced more frequently.
One of the most effective methods of water purification is the distillation process. It all starts with a source of heat that vaporizes water, turning it into steam.
When the vapor cools and condenses in water, contaminants are separated due to differences in boiling point. The result? Crystal clear, perfect water.
When the water is vaporized in the distilling process, the steam is channelled into a condenser where the water returns to its liquid form. As it accumulates, the liquid collects in one container.
The rest that did not vaporize is called sediment, and it stays in the original container that contained the water before it vaporized. To ensure that the water is clean, the water can be re-drained through the unit to ensure that all other extraneous elements have been removed.
Anion exchange is a chemical separation technique that selectively retains different positive ions on a saturated resin of negatively charged ions, replacing contaminants.
A resin is an ionic polymeric material that is insoluble in water, but has an exchangeable ion in several parts of the polymer chain known as exchange sites.
Water flows through these exchange sites into the ionization device, and unwanted ions are exchanged for desirable ions on the exchange resin.
The resin beads are saturated with sodium or potassium. As the water flows through the exchange sites, the contaminating ions attach to the resin beads while the sodium or potassium on the resin is released into the water.
It is an opaque white mineral naturally present in two main forms: rutile and anatase. Both forms contain pure titanium dioxide combined with impurities.
Titanium dioxide is chemically treated to remove these contaminants, leaving the white pigment pure for use. Titanium dioxide has a variety of applications because it is odorless and absorbing.
How To Test Water For Uranium
Home owners can test uranium themselves. The only way to find out the concentration is to conduct sampling and testing.
Uranium is not detectable by taste, sight or odor. Order a uranium test kit and, once completed, ensure that the uranium test is returned to the lab with all required information completed.
While testing, ensure that you follow the test package instructions to the letter. One of the most commonly reported errors is device exposure.
A uranium test result of 4 picocuries (a picocurie is a trillionth curie and measures radioactivity) per litre or more is considered a high radon concentration.
The average concentration of uranium in homes is 1.3 pCi/L and 4.0 pCi/L outdoors. The national average of 1.3 pCi/L includes households in many regions without uranium problems. (Keep in mind that the 4.0 pCi/L standard was developed for practical reasons and not for safety reasons. )
Recent studies have shown a significant risk of lung cancer when exposed to levels of 2-4 pCi/l. EPA recommends that radon levels be reduced below 2 pCi/L if possible.
The concentration of uranium may change with time. For that reason, water should be tested on four consecutive quarters and the results of these four tests should be averaged to produce the most correct uranium levels possible in water.
Once the system is installed, test the water again to make sure it is operating correctly. If everything comes back to levels that are acceptable, all that remains is to maintain the system as directed by the manufacturer to ensure a continuous supply of safe drinking water.
Health Effects Of Uranium In Water
Uranium in drinking water is an issue of concern to many around the world. Drinking water is not the only risk of exposure; eating root crops grown with contaminated water can also be dangerous.
Consequently, it has been classified as carcinogenic by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “Intakes of uranium that exceed EPA standards can result in an increased risk of cancer, liver injury or both.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has been working on determining safety levels, and a 2011 draft guidance document suggested that 0.03 mg/L may be a conservative level.
The WHO states that “the recommended value for uranium remains provisional because of the difficulty in determining an exposure level that would be expected to cause effects based on scientific data.”
Exposure to uranium has been shown to be harmful to human kidneys and animals. Research indicates that uranium is also absorbed by muscles, skeleton, blood, lungs and liver.Researchers at the University of New Mexico and Tufts report that prolonged exposure to uranium may also cause long-term genetic and reproductive harm.
Uranium is not known as inhalation toxin, but rather ingested. So the issue of uranium in drinking water is a real one.
Approximately 99% of the uranium ingested in food and water will leave the body but the rest will enter the bloodstream and be removed by the kidneys and a small amount will be deposited into the bone of a person where it will remain for years.
The other side of uranium is its partner radon.
Radon is a radioactive gas that is naturally present in soil. It is a byproduct of the decay of uranium.Radon is in new houses, older houses, houses that need repair, houses that don’t have basements; there’s no trend. Your neighbor’s home can be radon-free, while your home has unsafe levels. Radon can come from the ground under a home, well water and a variety of building materials.
When uranium decays radon gas is produced. Radon is the gas that builds up in houses, usually in basements, and dramatically increases the risk of lung cancer when inhaled.
Even when the interior of the house is protected from radon leakage, uranium-rich well water can bring it into the house and expose occupants to gas during heavy water consumption activities such as showering. If it’s uranium, it’s possible that radon is also present, and either one of them is too much of a contaminant.
There is no way to shut down all the plants, fertilizer companies and farmers, and no way to stop the water from running over the rocks. Contaminants will still be present in virtually all water sources.
The fact remains that the local water treatment plant will not be totally responsible for the health and welfare of its consumers. They simply cannot accept all this responsibility. Therefore, we need to ensure that our water is clean, safe to drink, and an additional benefit it can be tasteful as well. Being a smart consumer is half the battle – the other half is doing something about what we know to be real.