Uranium is a common radioactive element that exists naturally all over the world. Uranium is used as fuel for nuclear power.
In Alberta, there is uranium in certain types of soil and rocks, like granite bedrock, sandstone, and shale bedrock. There are also low levels of uranium in food, water, and air.
Other sources of uranium include:
Uranium in well water comes from dissolving or eroding soils and rocks that contain uranium. You are more likely to have higher uranium levels in drilled wells when your water flows from cracks or fractures in bedrock compared to shallow wells and surface water supplies.
You might be exposed to uranium if you breathe air, drink water, or eat food from areas that have high background levels of uranium. After uranium gets into your body this way, it quickly gets into your blood and then collects in your kidneys and bones. Uranium leaves your body very slowly when you pee (pass urine) and have bowel movements.
Kidney damage is the main health concern when you are exposed to uranium. Radiation from high levels of uranium is not known to cause cancer.
You can’t see, smell, or taste uranium. Your water can be tested to see how much uranium is in it. Learn more about testing your drinking water in Alberta.
If you use water from a private well or an untreated groundwater source, test your water regularly to make sure it’s safe. Make sure to use a lab that’s accredited to test for uranium.
All municipal (city or town) public water supplies are tested regularly for uranium. If needed, these water supplies are treated to keep uranium levels below the Health Canada standard of 0.02 mg/L (milligrams per litre). You can usually get the results of uranium testing by contacting your municipality.
The maximum acceptable concentration (MAC) is the highest amount of a metal in drinking water that is safe for a person to drink. According to Health Canada’s Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality, the MAC for uranium in drinking water is 0.02 mg/L. This value is set to protect an average person from getting sick based on the average amount of water we drink.
If testing shows a uranium level in your drinking water that’s higher than 0.02 mg/L:
You can remove uranium from drinking water with:
If you have any questions about uranium in drinking water, contact Alberta Health Services
Environmental Public Health.
Current as of: April 26, 2022
Author: Environmental Public Health, Alberta Health Services
This material is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional. This material is intended for general information only and is provided on an "as is", "where is" basis. Although reasonable efforts were made to confirm the accuracy of the information, Alberta Health Services does not make any representation or warranty, express, implied or statutory, as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, applicability or fitness for a particular purpose of such information. Alberta Health Services expressly disclaims all liability for the use of these materials, and for any claims, actions, demands or suits arising from such use.