A new analysis from the Environmental Working Group, an independent advocacy group, has concluded that the tap water of 218 million Americans contains dangerous levels of chromium-6. The chemical was featured in the 2000 movie “Erin Brockovich” based on a true “whistle-blowing” story.
In a recent written statement, Brockovich said, “Whether it is chromium-6, PFOA, or lead, the public is looking down the barrel of a serious water crisis across the country that has been building for decades, blaming it on “corruption, complacency and utter incompetence.”
The new report, sanctioned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), shows that levels of chromium-6 are at or above 0.03 parts per billion in 7 percent of the samples tested by local water utilities, between 2013 and 2015. Seven million Americans get tap water with levels of chromium-6 that are higher than the legal limit set in California which is 10 parts per billion (ppb).
According to the National Toxicology Program, chromium is a “naturally occurring element found in rocks, animals, plants, soil and volcanic dust and gases.” Chromium-3, is an essential nutrient for the body. Chromium-6, rare in nature, is produced by industrial processes and is used in stainless steel production, leather tanning, textile manufacturing, electroplating, and wood preservation.
Scientific reports have shown that breathing in airborne chromium-6 particles may cause lung cancer. On the basis of these reports, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration sets strict guidelines for airborne chromium-6 in the workplace. The EPA has never set an exact limit for chromium-6 in drinking water.
A two-year study in 2008 by the National Toxicology Program, found that laboratory rats and mice developed cancer when they were given drinking water with chromium-6. David Andrews, co-author of the report and a scientist said that a separate scientific study found a higher incidence of stomach cancers in workers routinely exposed to chromium-6. Andrews also said that even very low levels at crucial periods during the development of a fetus, infant, or child could cause “much more serious problems” that for an adult drinking a larger dose.
Based on the 2008 report alongside other research, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment set a public health goal of 0.02 ppb in tap water. California is the only state that enforces a maximum contaminant level, reports CNN.