Answer to Question #3085 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"
Category: Alpha Emitters — Uranium
The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:
A recent analysis of my hair ordered by my physician indicated a uranium level that is about five times the maximum reference range. How alarmed should I be with respect to this result? I am not exposed to uranium by occupational hazard, as I'm an office manager in a very clean environment. Past ingestion may have been the result of private well water, but I've not ingested any of this well water for six years now. My questions are as follows: At the level I've referenced above, what are the chemical toxicity effects? What are the radiation effects? Should I be concerned about damage to kidney function and consult with a kidney specialist? Are there any chelation therapies or natural therapies that are effective in removing uranium from the organs of the body?
First, let me note that the symptoms you describe have never been associated with chronic or acute intake of uranium, and I doubt that the allegedly high levels of uranium found in your hair are indicative of uranium poisoning. Like other heavy metals, uranium may be excreted in the hair, but hair analysis is not an appropriate diagnostic tool for uranium intake. There are no established standards for analysis of uranium in human hair, or for what constitutes a normal or elevated level of uranium in hair. The analytical procedure is subject to numerous errors and interferences and if not very carefully carried out will likely give erroneous or misleading results. For example, even a tiny amount of uranium contamination from ordinary dirt or a surface deposition from a shampoo or cleansing agent containing even parts per million amounts of uranium could give high readings.
Uranium, when ingested in food or water, is only poorly absorbed from the gut and of the small fraction of uranium that is absorbed from the gut, most is very quickly excreted via the urine. A urinalysis for uranium would thus be a far better way of determining uranium in the body than a hair analysis. Uptake from water is no more than 5% of that ingested, and more like 1-2%. Studies carried out in normal healthy males have shown that concentrations of uranium in urine are actually less than those in drinking water. Other studies have been done of populations in Canada and elsewhere whose drinking water contained naturally high levels of uranium; no effects attributable to ingestion of these elevated levels of uranium in drinking water was found even in elderly persons who had ingested these waters for decades.
Assuming that the hair analysis results provided to you are indeed correct, it is highly unlikely that there would be any chemical or radiation toxicity effects. If you have concern regarding possible kidney effects, then you should by all means consult with an appropriate medical specialist. However, an ordinary urinalysis should be adequate to demonstrate to a competent physician whether there are indicators such as protein, casts, albumin, or other indicators of possible kidney damage in the urine.
With respect to the query about removal of uranium from the body, chelation therapy is ineffective, but bicarbonate has some merit. However, therapy is not indicated unless there is indication of uranium intoxication, and by no means is self-medication recommended.
To briefly summarize, hair analysis is unreliable and, based on what you have related, it is extremely unlikely that uranium is the cause of your illness. Something else is the cause of your illness, and you are quite rightly seeking to learn the cause and to find a cure. There are many possible causes of fatigue—anemia and chronic fatigue syndrome are but two. Were I so afflicted, I would likely consult with a recognized specialist (Board certified) in internal medicine or schedule a visit to a clinic at a nearby medical school such as the University of Chicago where I could obtain expert care.
Ronald L. Kathren, CHP
Answer posted on 24 October 2003. 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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