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Health Indicator Report of Radium in Community Drinking Water Systems

Radium is a radioactive metal that occurs naturally in trace amounts in rocks, soils, and ground water. As radium decays, it continually releases energy into the environment until a stable, nonradioactive substance is formed. This energy is part of the natural radiation to which all living creatures are exposed. Radium readily dissolves in groundwater where acid conditions (low pH levels) are found. The various forms of naturally occurring radium found in groundwater are radium 224, 226, and 228. Radium like other elements of the earth's crust naturally enters the body through drinking water and food. In the body, radium acts much like calcium. When swallowed, a small amount of radium attaches to bones, but most of the radium will leave the body naturally in feces or urine. Studies of workers who ingested high levels of radium from occupational activities have shown it to cause bone cancer. For radium 226 and 228, the U.S. EPA estimates that the additional lifetime risks associated with drinking water containing 5 pCi/l is about 1 in 10,000. This means that if 10,000 people were to consume two liters of this water per day for 50 years, one additional fatal cancer would be estimated among the 10,000 exposed individuals.

Data Source

Bureau of Safe Drinking Water, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection


The distribution of radium in drinking water by community water system, population served, and year


The distribution of radium in drinking water by community water system, population served, and year


Not applicable

How Are We Doing?

In order to determine the quality of water provided by community water supplies in New Jersey, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) require mandatory, regular monitoring of treated water delivered to the public. Test results are compared to standards for drinking water quality called maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs), the maximum permissible level of a contaminant in public drinking water based on information on health effects, treatment, analytical methods and contaminant occurrence. A complete list of the regulated contaminants and the maximum permissible concentrations allowed in drinking water are listed on NJDEP's website at: [] The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has established maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for combined radium 226 and 228 and for gross alpha radiation in drinking water. The MCL is a maximum permissible level of a contaminant that ensures the safety of the water over a lifetime of consumption and also takes into consideration feasible treatment technologies and monitoring capabilities. The MCL for combined radium 226 and 228 is 5 pCi/l. The MCL for gross alpha is 15 pCi/l. Specific drinking water standards have not been established for radium 224 or other alpha emitters. In New Jersey between 2010 and 2020, there were only 36 occurrences wherein the mean radium concentration in community water systems exceeded the MCL. During that same period of time, there were 127 instances in community water systems, where the maximum radium concentration exceed the standard.

What Is Being Done?

Public water suppliers are required by law to monitor for regulated contaminants based on type of water system and water source, and ensure the water meets state and federal Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs). The test results are sent to the NJDEP. If the level of any regulated contaminant is above the MCL, additional samples are taken to confirm that a problem exists. The supplier of that water is then required to eliminate the problem by changing to another water source or by improving water treatment. The NJDEP inspects community drinking water systems and evaluates their monitoring reports for compliance with the standards. Noncompliance with a standard can result in a violation. NJDEP works with systems to ensure they notify the public and return to compliance.

Available Services

If your drinking water comes from a public community water system: You can get the most recent test results for your water system by contacting your water supplier or by accessing Drinking WaterWatch available here: [] You can also contact the NJDEP Bureau of Safe Drinking Water, Technical Assistance at (609) 292-5550. If your drinking water comes from a private well: You are responsible for testing. The NJDEP recommends that you use a laboratory that is NJDEP-certified. You can call NJDEP Office of Quality Assurance at (609) 292-3950 for information on laboratories certified to test drinking water. Testing is required for sale of residential real estate when a well is the source of water. For more information, contact the NJDEP Private Well Testing Program, [], or call (866) 479-8378.
Page Content Updated On 05/10/2021, Published on 05/11/2021
The information provided above is from the Department of Health's NJSHAD web site ( The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Thu, 30 November 2023 9:36:24 from Department of Health, New Jersey State Health Assessment Data Web site: ".

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