It’s been almost 25 years since environmental crusader Erin Brockovich stood up for the residents of Hinkley, California after the carcinogenic chemical called chromium-6 was found in the town’s drinking water.
Unfortunately, the conflict over chromium-6 is far from over. A new EWG review of federal data from nationwide drinking water tests shows that the compound poisons water supplies for more than 200 million Americans in all 50 states.
This is despite the fact state scientists in California and elsewhere say chromium-6 causes cancer when ingested at even extraordinarily low levels. Federal regulations are hampered by a challenge from the chemical industry, which could mean no national laws governing the toxic compound.
In 2010, a groundbreaking EWG investigation found chromium-6 in the tap water of 31 cities. The findings prompted a Senate hearing. As a result, the EPA ordered local water utilities to begin the first nationwide tests for the unregulated contaminant.
From 2013 to 2015, utility companies took more than 60,000 samples of drinking water and found chromium-6 in more than 75 percent of them. EWG’s analysis of the test data estimates that water supplies serving 218 million Americans (over two-thirds of the population) contain more chromium-6 than the California scientists deemed safe.
With the release of EWG’s Tap Water Database, an additional 32 million Americans have been provided water that is contaminated with chromium-6.
Click on the map below to check the water in your area for chromium-6 contamination.
The dispute over chromium-6 regulation stems not only from the question of how much is safe, but it also stems from the tremendous cost of cleaning up such a widespread naturally occurring contaminant that is also an industrial pollutant. The California Department of Public Health estimates that treating the state’s water to meet the legal limit of 10 parts per billion will cost nearly $20 million a year. Thus, the cost of reaching the much more rigorous public health goal would be much higher. According to the EWG:
Human studies by government and independent scientists worldwide have definitively established that breathing airborne chromium-6 particles can cause lung cancer, and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration sets strict limits for airborne chromium-6 in the workplace. Whether inhaled or ingested, it can also cause liver damage, reproductive problems and developmental harm. Studies have found that exposure to chromium-6 may present greater risks to certain groups, including infants and children, people who take antacids, and people with poorly functioning livers.
But because of the unsettled science – including the crucial question of how much chromium-6 the stomach converts into mostly harmless chromium-3 – the EPA has only set a drinking water limit for total chromium, the combined level for both compounds. That outdated regulation from 2001, based on skin rash concerns, is 100 parts per billion – 5,000 times California’s public health goal for chromium-6 and 10 times the state’s legal limit.1
EWG’s examination of EPA tests indicates that more than seven million Americans are served tap water from supplies that had at least one detection of chromium-6 higher than the only legal limit in the nation. Due to the fact the EPA tests covered only a fraction of the small systems and private wells that supply water to more than a third of Americans, it is safe to assume that chromium-6 contamination is even more widespread.
Clearly, the safety of our tap water is a HUGE problem. In addition to chromium-6, there are many other contaminants in our water that are of great concern, such as fluoride. Our readers can take advantage of $100 off of an AquaTru Water Filtration System (endorsed by Erin Brockovich, David Avocado Wolf, and many others) by clicking here.