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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
September 19, 2003

Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.

For Further Information Contact:
Donna Leusner
609 984-7160

DHSS Releases Report of Study on Radium in Drinking Water In Central and Southern New Jersey


TRENTON Ė††††††† The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services today released a report of a study that is consistent with results of previous U.S. and Canadian studies that demonstrate an association between elevated levels of radium in drinking water and a rare type of bone cancer.This association is well-known from previous studies in Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Canada.

Radium is a naturally occurring radioactive element found in ground water throughout the United States, including New Jersey and, in particular, beneath the central and southern parts of the state.It is absorbed by the body and incorporated into bone, where it can cause osteosarcoma if a person is exposed over a long period of time.

On average in New Jersey, osteosarcoma occurs in three people per million annually.

Drinking water studies in Ontario, Canada, in Illinois/Iowa, and in Wisconsin previously have found the association between osteosarcoma and elevated radium levels in drinking water.New Jerseyís study is based on the nationís most complete measurement of all types of radium that contribute to an individualís overall natural exposure.

††††††††† The health study released today reviewed cases of osteosarcoma diagnosed from 1979-1998 and water tested from 1997-2000 to determine if a higher risk level existed in those areas of the state where ground water was found to exceed drinking water standards for radiological contamination. The study included a total of 75 cases over a 20-year period.

The study showed that males in parts of central and southern New Jersey where radium concentrations exceeded federal standards had a three-fold higher risk of developing osteosarcoma. The risk was highest in men age 25 and over.No increased risk was seen among females.

In conducting the study, the department used data from community water system surveys conducted by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Geological Survey.The study examined 117 community water systems and subsystems serving 1.4 million people in 10 counties: Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Gloucester, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean and Salem.Seventeen of those community water systems and subsystems were found to exceed drinking water standards for radiological contamination.

The federal government has established maximum contamination levels for radiological contamination. New Jersey has been monitoring and testing water suppliers for many years, requiring water systems to undertake remediation efforts if they exceed the standards.

Genetic susceptibility may contribute to up to half of all osteosarcomas.The cancer can also be caused by exposure to certain medical treatments.†† To view a copy of the report, please visit the department web site at

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