Health Effects and Environmental Justice Concerns of Exposure to Uranium in Drinking Water
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We discuss the recent epidemiologic literature regarding health effects of uranium exposure in drinking water focusing on the chemical characteristics of uranium. While there is strong toxicologic evidence for renal and reproductive effects as well as DNA damage, the epidemiologic evidence for these effects in people exposed to uranium in drinking water is limited. Further, epidemiologic evidence is lacking for cardiovascular and oncogenic effects. One challenge in characterizing health effects of uranium in drinking water is the paucity of long-term cohort studies with individual level exposure assessment. Nevertheless, there are environmental justice concerns due to the substantial exposures for certain populations. For example, we present original data suggesting that individuals living in the Navajo Nation are exposed to high levels of uranium in unregulated well water used for drinking. In 10 out of 185 samples (5.4 %), concentrations of uranium exceeded standards under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Therefore, efforts to mitigate exposure to toxic elements in drinking water are warranted and should be prioritized.
KeywordsUranium Drinking water Health effects Environmental justice Navajo Arsenic
Funding was provided by NSF 0966093, USGS (2015AZ544B), NCI Partnership for Native American Cancer Prevention (U54CA143925), and Tufts Institute of the Environment.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
L. Corlin, T. Rock, J. Cordova, M. Woodin, J.L. Durant, D.M. Gute, and J. Ingram declare that they have no conflict of interest. D. Brugge reports paid travel expenses to South Africa from international physicians for the prevention of nuclear war to present talks on uranium health effects.
Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent
This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.
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