Uranium is a naturally occurring, weakly radioactive metal.It can exist in three forms called isotopes.The three isotopes of uranium are uranium-234, uranium-235, and uranium-238.Uranium-238 makes up more than 99% of all uranium found in nature.By analyzing samples for each isotope (called isotopic analysis), the EPA laboratory was able to report that the uranium existed in amounts consistent with what would be found in nature.
Most people in the United States take in some uranium with the food they eat and the water they drink everyday.People that drink water with levels of uranium above the MCL will be exposed to higher levels of uranium.Like all radioactive elements, uranium breaks down by radioactive decay.Radioactive decay is measured in half-lifes, which is the amount of time is takes for the element to lose half of its radioactivity.In general, the longer the half-life an element has, the more stable & less radioactive it is.The reverse is also true – the shorter the half-life an element has, the less stable it is and the more radioactive it is.Uranium has a half-life of 4.5 billion years, which makes it a very stable element and also explains why it is only weakly radioactive.
The health impact of high levels of uranium in drinking water is not known.Health effects from ingesting uranium in drinking water are caused by chemical damage to the kidneys, not by radioactivity.The effects are a very mild decrease in the kidney’s ability to filter toxins from the bloodstream.Most people will not have any symptoms and the effects are reversible once you eliminate the consumption of excess uranium.Over time, uranium will slowly leave your body through urine and from other storage areas in the body.
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