Answer to Question #3414 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"
The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:
I have had a hair analysis completed. The results are puzzling! There was a high level of uranium found. Do you have any ideas of what I have been exposed to, its health effects, and how to rid my system of it? I would like information so I can protect my family and others from further exposure. I am finding very little information on this topic.
Uranium is a naturally occurring heavy metallic element that is found virtually everywhere in nature, in rock, in soil, in plants, and in our bodies. The average person ingests about 2 µg (around 1/15,000 of an ounce) of uranium in food and water every day, but only a very small fraction—on the order of one or two percent—is absorbed into the body. Thus almost all of the uranium we ingest is never absorbed, but excreted via the feces. Of the small fraction that is absorbed through the gut, most is quickly excreted via the urine, but a tiny amount is excreted in the hair. This is perfectly normal. The hair from different people—or even the same person—will contain varying amounts of uranium, depending on how much is in the water and food that people drink and eat. Some people might have ten or even hundreds of times the amount of uranium in their hair than do others.
But the good news is that the levels of environmental uranium found in hair are not indicative of a hazard to your health. Uranium in the hair is perfectly normal as uranium is ubiquitous in our environment and always has been present in trace amounts in all plants and animals. So there is no need to do anything to protect yourself or your family. Indeed, the validity of hair analysis for uranium may be questionable for many reasons, not the least of which is that if the hair is not properly washed and handled prior to the analysis, or if the hair is kept in glass or other containers which contain uranium, it can be easily contaminated because of the presence of the ubiquitous nature of uranium leading to false measurements results that are erroneously high. And, regrettably, many reports of elevated levels of uranium in hair are not based upon scientific knowledge of what the normal range of levels is.
Ronald Kathren, CHP
Answer posted on 24 February 2004. The information and material posted on this website is intended as general reference information only. Specific facts and circumstances may alter the concepts and applications of materials and information described herein. The information provided is not a substitute for professional advice and should not be relied upon in the absence of such professional advice specific to whatever facts and circumstances are presented in any given situation. Answers are correct at the time they are posted on the Website. Be advised that over time, some requirements could change, new data could be made available, or Internet links could change. For answers that have been posted for several months or longer, please check the current status of the posted information prior to using the responses for specific applications.
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