Uranium contamination in drinking water and foodstuffs in Bahi District, Central Tanzania

A field survey was conducted in Bahi District in Central Tanzania to investigate uranium levels in drinking water and to evaluate its contamination in some foodstuffs as proxy to their safety for human and animal consumption. Regularly consumed cereal grains, cassava leaves, salt, soda ash, catfish, flamingo meat, surface and underground waters were randomly sampled in the district and analyzed using inductively coupled plasma - optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES). The study found extremely high levels of uranium in surface and underground waters of up to 1233μg L-1, a value that exceeds the World Health Organization standard of 30 μg L-1 by a factor of 41. Soda ash, which is locally consumed and some is exported, had a very high value of 1910 μgU kg-1. Finger millet grains, catfish and flamingo had 32, 17.98 and 31.78 μgU kg-1, respectively, values that were higher than the natural background level of 14 μgU kg-1 found in some common foodstuffs by the European Food Safety Authority. It was concluded that drinking water and consuming foodstuffs with high levels of uranium is endangering human and animal life in Bahi District. This may cause leukemia, brain disorder, kidney failure, lung damage and/or bone cancer. The public should therefore be informed about this risk and relevant authorities should undertake regular screening of food products from the affected district as a mitigation measure to avoid health problems in future.
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Region Focus: 
East Africa
RUFORUM Journal Articles
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