We assessed the effect of natural uranium and other radionuclides in drinking water on risk of leukemia.
The subjects (n = 144,627) in the base cohort had lived outside the municipal tapwater system during 1967-1980. A subcohort was formed as a stratified random sample of the base cohort and subjects using drinking water from drilled wells prior to 1981 were identified. A case-cohort design was used comparing exposure among cases with leukemia (n = 35) with a stratified random sample (n = 274) from the subcohort. Activity concentrations of uranium, radium-226, and radon in the drinking water were analyzed using radiochemical and alpha-spectrometric methods.
The median activity concentration of uranium in well water was 0.08 Bq/L for the leukemia cases and 0.06 Bq/L for the reference group, radon concentrations 80 and 130 Bq/L, respectively, and radium-226 concentrations 0.01 Bq/L for both groups. The hazard ratio of leukemia for uranium was 0.91 (95% confidence interval 0.73-1.13) per Bq/L. for radon 0.79 per Bq/L (95% CI 0.27-2.29), and for radium-226 0.80 (95% CI 0.46-1.39) per Bq/L.
Our results do not indicate an increased risk of leukemia from ingestion of natural uranium or other radionuclides through drinking water at these exposure levels.