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Basic Information about Thallium in Drinking Water

Thallium at a Glance

Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) = 0.002 milligrams per Liter (mg/L) or 2 parts per billion (ppb)

Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) = 0.0005 mg/L or 0.5 ppb

Health Effects
Some people who drink water containing thallium in excess of the MCL over many years could experience hair loss, changes in their blood, or problems with their kidneys, intestines, or liver problems.

Drinking Water Health Advisories provide more information on health effects

Chemical Abstract Service Registry Number
7440-28-0

Sources of Contamination
Leaching from ore-processing sites; discharge from electronics, glass, and drug factories

List of all Regulated Contaminants (PDF) (6 pp, 396K, About PDF)

EPA regulates thallium in drinking water to protect public health. Thallium may cause health problems if present in public or private water supplies in amounts greater than the drinking water standard set by EPA.

What is thallium?
Thallium is a metal found in natural deposits such as ores containing other elements.

Uses for thallium.
The greatest use of thallium is in specialized electronic research equipment.

If you are concerned about thallium in a private well, please visit:

What are thallium's health effects?
Some people who drink water containing thallium well in excess of the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for many years could experience hair loss, changes in their blood, or problems with their kidneys, intestines, or liver problems.

This health effects language is not intended to catalog all possible health effects for thallium. Rather, it is intended to inform consumers of some of the possible health effects associated with thallium in drinking water when the rule was finalized.

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What are EPA's drinking water regulations for thallium?
In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act. This law requires EPA to determine the level of contaminants in drinking water at which no adverse health effects are likely to occur. These non-enforceable health goals, based solely on possible health risks and exposure over a lifetime with an adequate margin of safety, are called maximum contaminant level goals (MCLG). Contaminants are any physical, chemical, biological or radiological substances or matter in water.

The MCLG for thallium is 0.0005 mg/L or 0.5 ppb. EPA has set this level of protection based on the best available science to prevent potential health problems. EPA has set an enforceable regulation for thallium, called a maximum contaminant level (MCL), at 0.002 mg/L or 2 ppb. MCLs are set as close to the health goals as possible, considering cost, benefits and the ability of public water systems to detect and remove contaminants using suitable treatment technologies.

The Phase V Rule, the regulation for thallium, became effective in 1994. The Safe Drinking Water Act requires EPA to periodically review the national primary drinking water regulation for each contaminant and revise the regulation, if appropriate. EPA reviewed thallium as part of the Six Year Review and determined that the 0.0005 mg/L or 0.5 ppb MCLG and 0.002 mg/L or 2 ppb MCL for thallium are still protective of human health.

States may set more stringent drinking water MCLGs and MCLs for thallium than EPA.

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How does thallium get into my drinking water?
The major sources of thallium in drinking water are leaching from ore-processing sites; and discharge from electronics, glass, and drug factories.

A federal law called the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) requires facilities in certain industries, which manufacture, process, or use significant amounts of toxic chemicals, to report annually on their releases of these chemicals. For more information on the uses and releases of chemicals in your state, contact the Community Right-to-Know Hotline: (800) 424-9346.

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How will I know if thallium is in my drinking water?
When routine monitoring indicates that thallium levels are above the MCL, your water supplier must take steps to reduce the amount of thallium so that it is below that level. Water suppliers must notify their customers as soon as practical, but no later than 30 days after the system learns of the violation. Additional actions, such as providing alternative drinking water supplies, may be required to prevent serious risks to public health.

If your water comes from a household well, check with your health department or local water systems that use ground water for information on contaminants of concern in your area.

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How will thallium be removed from my drinking water?
The following treatment method(s) have proven to be effective for removing thallium to below 0.002 mg/L or 2 ppb: activated alumina; ion exchange.

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How do I learn more about my drinking water?
EPA strongly encourages people to learn more about their drinking water, and to support local efforts to protect the supply of safe drinking water and upgrade the community water system. Your water bill or telephone book's government listings are a good starting point for local information.

Contact your water utility. EPA requires all community water systems to prepare and deliver an annual consumer confidence report (CCR) (sometimes called a water quality report) for their customers by July 1 of each year. If your water provider is not a community water system, or if you have a private water supply, request a copy from a nearby community water system.

The CCR summarizes information regarding sources used (i.e., rivers, lakes, reservoirs, or aquifers), any detected contaminants, compliance and educational information.

Some water suppliers have posted their annual reports on EPA's Web site.

Other EPA Web sites

Other Federal Departments and Agencies

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