Your exclusive Culligan Representative in Halifax Regional Municpality

Facts: Uranium and Drinking Water

A pretty unspectacular way of looking at uranium is to display it as a radioactive metallic element, existing in anionic complexes, found naturally only in combination with other substances, with U-238 being the most common form.

But that is boring, is it not? Uranium has a fascinating history and here are some interesting things about uranium, which you possibly have not heard of yet and hopefully enjoy reading about.

Uranium is at position 54 of the table showing the abundance of elements, which means it naturally exists more often than gold, silver and mercury and I am sure we in Nova Scotia have no problem to believe this fact.

It is easy to see that uranium is named after the planet Uranus, derived from the Greek word “ouranos”, meaning “sky” or “heaven”. This was because when it was first discovered by a German chemist in 1789, Uranus was believed to be the planet furthest away from earth.

But it was not before 1856, when a French chemist was actually able to produce pure uranium. And finally in 1896 a name kicks in, you might have heard of – Henri Becquerel, who discovered the nuclear radiation of uranium. The “becquerel” has become the symbol, which defines the activity of radioactive material.

To finish up the historical side nicely: Uranium was used in 1938 by two Germans to initiate the very first atom splitting by bombarding uranium with neutrons.
Pure uranium, although considered part of the heavy metals, is relative soft and has in its purest form a silver-white gloss. Since all uranium isotopes are radioactive, it is considered and instable element.

In the past, uranium crystals were actually used in the glass manufacturing industry to provide specific colorations to drinking glasses, can you imagine? As such, using Grandma’s colourful glass collection might not be the best idea.

Exposed to air, it will turn yellow due to oxidation. As a powder it is highly pyrophorus (so don’t mix it up with salt, please). Although fairly resistant to bases, it reacts heavily with heat, for example in hot water and produces Hydrogen as a by-product. The disposal of uranium, particularly fortified and concentrated uranium, still is a big problem until today because of it s unbelievably long half-life period of 4,468 BILLION years!

In the human body, uranium and all its combinations are very toxic. Ingestion of dissolved compounds can easily lead to massive damages for lungs, liver and kidneys and the radioactivity is of course carcinogenic.

Bottom line: Uranium is even less your friend than a Tim Horton’s Donut and it is crucial to have it removed or at least lowered to acceptable limits in your drinking water.