Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Unsafe Levels Of Toxic Chromium Found In Drinking Water

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested tap water in 35 cities across the US; 31 had detectable levels of the carcinogenic metal called hexavalent chromium (chromium-6), 25 had levels thought to be unsafe. (Erin Brockovich famously and successfully petitioned for the cancer-stricken residents of Hinkley, California whose water was contaminated with chromium-6.)

California set the unsafe level in drinking water at 0.06 parts per billion (ppb). Here were the top 5 contaminated cities:
  • Norman, Oklahoma: 12.9 ppb
  • Honolulu, Hawaii: 2.00 ppb
  • Riverside, California: 1.69 ppb
  • Madison, Wisconsin: 1.58 ppb
  • San Jose, California: 1.34 ppb
Here's how the other cities rated:

Click to enlarge.

Hexavalent chromium (Cr-6) is not the same as trivalent chromium (Cr-3), the latter employed as a dietary supplement to improve glucose metabolism and regulate body fat. Cr-6 is a strong oxidant linked to stomach and gastrointestinal cancers. Although the two can interconvert: Cr-3 becoming Cr-6 in the presence of chlorine, Cr-6 to Cr-3 in acid conditions.

What to do? We could regulate the industries that discharge Cr-6 into the environment. But that would cause a hardship for the industries. Maybe we could monitor discharge from big industries and exempt small ones, similar to the Tester Amendment on the food safety bill. After all, small industries care more about the public. They don't discharge toxins into the environment.

Maybe we should forego any regulation - just keep government out of people's business. Let water companies distribute any water they like.
Bix is asking for coal in her stocking.


caulfieldkid said...


Is it a federal law that your water works has to send all the citizens test results? I know I get one (either once or twice a year). At any rate, I always find it interesting. Our water is in pretty good shape from what I can tell.

Also, this makes me wonder which Chromium the browser was named after.


Bix said...

I didn't know so I looked it up. We have Aqua America water. They say sending these reports is, as you said, a federal requirement via the 1996 reauthorization of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

I just looked up our report. They lump all chromium together, the good with the bad, as the EWG report said they would. It would be nice if they lined out Cr-6. But even if they didn't, as the EWG report said, "... in most cases, the majority of the total chromium in water was in the hexavalent form." Looks like our water mightily surpasses California's 0.06 ppb level.

Bix said...

I have tried and tried to like the Chrome browser. I will still try because I generally like Google products. But Firefox still has it beat IMHO.

caulfieldkid said...

I have to use several different browsers. Chromium (the linux version of Chrome) is my go to, but I like FF as well. Actually, there are some things I prefer FF for.

The only browser I love to hate is IE.

Bix said...

Sorry I just got around to posting your comment, shaun. I just found it. Blogger has a new system for comments and I hadn't been paying attention. A slew of old comments there waiting to be published! but most are anonymous spam.

I just looked up Chromium browser. How about that. Maybe I'll give Chrome another try. There's an application I've been meaning to test but it requires Chrome beta.

Bix said...

The application I want to try is Google's new Body Browser:

Looks like you can use other browsers. They only have a woman's body at the moment.