Recent Radium Report May Raise Unneeded Health Concerns

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a report today with the headline that 170 million Americans drink radioactive water based on its analysis of public water system compliance monitoring data. EWG calculated their exposure numbers based on the California Public Health Goal (PHG), which is much lower than EPA’s Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL). The PHG is a goal (comparable to EPA’s Maximum Contaminant Level Goal) and is not a legally enforceable standard. This headline is misleading as only 158 public water systems serving 276,000 Americans in 27 states reported radium levels above EPA’s MCL. EPA published the Radionuclides Rule in 2000 with a combined radium 226/228 MCL of 5 pCi/L, compared to the combined California PHG of 0.069 pCi/L (radium-226 PHG of 0.05 piC/L and radium-228 PHG of 0.019 piC/L). This report was picked up by several news outlets, such as CBS News.