My housemate Dan and I were sitting at the kitchen table a few days ago on our laptops, and he mentioned that a professor at Duke University had done a study on Southern Jordan’s natural water aquifers. Seems there’s a little issue with cancer-causing levels of the radioactive element Radium in the water, on the lines of 2000% above international and EPA-recommended safe levels for drinking water. It apparently doesn’t affect Amman or the northern part of the country, but people in the south and even in nearby countries (Saudi, Palestine, Israel) should definitely have cause for alarm.

The above video sums up his research, in which he also adds his advice for an easy resolution.

In fact, you can manage it. It’s not something that’s impossible to manage. A simple ionic change, a softener, would remove the radium from the water. Reverse osmosis distillation would do the same.”

I found Doctor Vengosh’s address at Duke University and emailed him to ask him about showering in radium-filled water in Aqaba. He replied to me within a few hours, reassuring me that although he certainly advised against consuming any of the water in the area, showering should not be a problem because the radium is not entering your body and being absorbed into your bones, which is how it affects people who drink it.

It’s not for certain now, but there’s a strong possibility that I’ll be doing some work or projects down in the Aqaba region, Jordan’s southernmost city, which will necessitate me visiting the area much more frequently. If the fix that Vengosh proposes is so simple, I can only pray that it’s been brought to the attention of the Jordanian authorities by now and that subsidized softeners (at least) have been provided for the citizens. More than anything else, I’d worry about the safety of the Bedouin, native Arabs who still live out in the desert with original wells who are probably not buying filtered bottled water from corner markets like the average Aqaban.

It’s something I’ll definitely ask around about in Aqaba when I’m there in five days for the Dead 2 Red. But no matter how hard I’m panting at the end of the race, I won’t be swigging down the first open bottle that’s proffered to me.