In the News: Radium in Drinking Water

January 16, 2018

There has recently been some concern over claims that 170 million Americans drink radioactive water based on the public health goal (PHG) for radium. Protecting our customers’ health and safety is Cal Water’s highest priority, and our water complies with the maximum contaminant level (MCL) set by federal and state public health experts to protect customers’ health and safety.

The MCL for radium 226 plus 228, the constituent in question, is 5 picoCuries per liter (pCi/L). MCLs are water quality standards set through a rigorous scientific process that evaluates the occurrence of constituents, potential health risks, and costs and benefits of regulation at certain levels.

It’s important to understand that public health goals (PHG) are not regulatory standards, but rather the level of a constituent below which there is no known concern to health over a lifetime of exposure. PHGs are set without regard to cost or available detection and treatment technologies. Detecting a constituent at any level does not necessarily mean there is a risk to public health, as PHGs do not represent a line between safe and unsafe water.

California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), which is composed of toxicologists, epidemiologists, physicians, biostatisticians, and research scientists, confirms that: “As long as drinking water complies with all MCLs, it is considered safe to drink, even if some contaminants exceed PHG levels.”

We want our customers to know as much as possible about their water quality, because the more informed they are, the more confidence they have in it. We encourage our customers to review the annual Water Quality Report for their water system, which includes every constituent detected in the water delivered to them.