A stunning report highlights a hidden danger in your tap water: radium.
This radioactive element is found naturally in the ground, and leeches into our drinking water through aquifers. A new report by the nonprofit group Environmental Working Group (EWG) says that as many as 170 million people are exposed to radium in their drinking water, despite the fact that it's known to raise your cancer risk.
As Alexis Temkin, a toxicologist with EWG explains, "[radium] has been associated with increases in bone cancer. So exposure to radium… even low levels, may increase the risk of cancer development."
While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets a safe limit for the amount of radium in tap water, EWG says that the limit from 1976 is outdated.
They add that no level of exposure to radium is "risk free," and there's still a low risk of developing cancer under the agency's legal limit for radium. Under the EPA's guidelines, about 70 extra cases of cancer per one million people are expected.
With radium found in public water systems from all 50 states, it's important to learn how you can check your tap water.
For their report, EWG collected public water data recorded between 2010 and 2015, from all 50 states.
While radium was found in each state's tap water, just 158 public water systems in 27 states tested positive for "amounts that exceeded the federal legal limit."
Texas made the top of EWG's list, with "more than 3,500 utilities serving more than 22 million people – about 80 percent of the state's population" shown to contain radium.
While the risk of radium exposure is small in most parts of the country, EWG worries that most people don't even realize they're at risk.
That's why they created a ZIP code tracker, which lets you check radium levels in tap water based on your location.
If your city's water system does contain radium, there's no reason to panic. If the dose is small, so is your risk. But to be safe, you can invest in a reverse osmosis filter for your tap, which will remove any radium.
I never even knew about this! It's pretty scary...