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A recent study, led by Duke University, has found that 16 Indian states have widespread uranium contamination in their groundwater. In the state of Rajasthan, around one third of all water wells that were tested were found to contain uranium levels in excess of the safe levels for drinking water, as per the definitions of the World Health Organisation and the US Environmental Protection Agency. 

The Research 

To undertake the study, researchers took samples of water from 324 wells in the Indian states of Gujarat and Rajasthan, analysing the chemical makeup of the water. As part of this, they measured the uranium isotope levels, which led to these findings.  

Additional analysis was undertaken, reviewing 68 previous studies that looked at the geochemistry of groundwater in 16 states across India, including Rajasthan and Gujarat. This found that whilst the uranium sources seemed to be as a result of natural occurrences of the element in granitic rocks, human factors were exasperating the problem.  

Effect on Health 

High levels of uranium in drinking water have been linked to an increased risk of chronic kidney disease. It has been reported that those involved in the mining of uranium have higher chances of contracting cancer. 

In addition to this, plants, including those used in agriculture, extract groundwater and in turn absorb some uranium. Whilst uranium in plant-based food is normal, with humans generally ingesting less than one or two micrograms per day, an increased level of uranium in groundwater could increase this. 

Uranium can affect human health through either its chemical properties, or the radioactive energy that it releases: 

Chemical Effects 

Uranium can interfere with the way the body’s organs work, with potential problems including: 

  • Lower autoimmune function 
  • Increased blood pressure 
  • Kidney disease 
  • Lower reproductive function 

Radioactive Effects 

Uranium releases radioactive energy as it decays; whilst safe in small amounts, high levels of radiation can cause cancer and other health problems such as: 

  • Lung cancer 
  • Reduced kidney function 
  • Bone cancer 
  • Radiation poisoning  
  • Death

What Is Uranium? 

Discovered in 1789 by Martin Heinrich Klaproth, Uranium is one of the better known chemical elements and is represented on the periodic table with the letter U. It is the heaviest chemical element that occurs naturally on Earth, and had no commercial value before the invention of the atom bomb.  

Its modern day uses are generally either in nuclear power plants, powering submarines, or in producing weapons. 

About India 

India is one of the world’s fastest growing economies, attracting investments for the opportunities this growth creates. The country has a population of around 1.3 billion, containing around 20% of the entire population of Earth; this is an increase of around 700 million people since 1975. Due to the country’s low population age, the prospect for long term economic growth is positive. 

Improving Water Quality 

The Green Renewable Redeemable Energy (GRRE) Group, an investment fund that targets investment opportunities in clean technologies and renewables, has a specialist division that focuses on implementing technology in India. Co-founded by Brian Weal, the company is focusing on innovative water purification technologies, including those that are chemical-free. These technologies are currently in the advanced testing stages, and are waiting to be rolled out throughout the country of India, utilising revolutionary ultra-fine bubble technology.