A new report from the University of Columbia Mailman School of Public Health revealed that high levels of uranium were detectable in two thirds of community water systems. Many in Brown neighborhoods.
“We’re interested in understanding the health consequences of these chronic low-level exposures from our public drinking water systems across the U.S.,” said Annie Nigra, a postdoctoral research fellow with Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences. “We want to know, first of all, are there major inequities or inequalities in public drinking water exposures across different types of populations? And two: are those exposures really associated with, you know, adverse health outcomes?
“In order to do that the first thing, what we have to do is create this nationwide database of estimating drinking water exposures across the U.S. and then we can start looking at inequities and exposure and whether these exposures are associated with disease,” continued Nigra.
The report was co-authored by Filippo Ravalli, Kathrin Schilling, Yuanzhi Yu, and Ana Navas-Acien, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health; Benjamin Bostick and Steven Chillru, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University; and Anirban Basu, University of London.
According to the report, “Approximately 90% of U.S. residents rely on public drinking water systems, with most residents relying specifically on community water systems that serve the same population year-round. The researchers evaluated six-year EPA review records for antimony, arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, mercury, selenium, thallium, and uranium to determine if average concentrations exceeded the maximum contaminant levels set by the EPA which regulates levels for six classes of contaminants. This included approximately 13 million records from 139,000 public water systems serving 290 million people annually.”
This isn’t the first rodeo that Brown and Black people have had with what is now known as “environmental racism.”
“Our research group tends to focus on chronic disease like cardiovascular disease. For many of these metals, we know for example, arsenic, uranium, we know that they can be toxic to the cardiovascular and kidney systems.”
Similar issues played a significant role in Black and Brown Americans and Indigenous people having a higher number of COVID deaths.
APM Research Lab, a nonpartisan research group, reported recently that 399 Black have died per 1,000 of COVID and Hispanics died at a 259 per 1,000 rate.
So while the report focused on Hispanics. This group of Americans tended to live in neighborhoods not too far from or within Black neighborhoods.
According to the report, “2.1 percent of community water systems reported average uranium concentrations from 2000 to 2011 in exceedance of the EPA maximum contamination levels, and uranium was frequently detected during compliance monitoring (63% of the time).”
“One of the ways that we tried to look at this potential disparity is by using these previous categorizations of counties and one of those groups is a semi urban, Hispanic group,” said Nigra. “And we found that regardless of whether a water system uses groundwater or surface water, regardless of the state the system is located in and regardless of the size of the system, semi-urban Hispanic counties had higher concentrations of uranium and other bottles compared to all other types of water systems.