According to a national report, hundreds of millions of Americans are being exposed to tap water that is contaminated with dangerous amounts of a carcinogenic chemical, known as chromium-6.
The Environmental Working Group, an independent advocacy group, has examined the evidence from water systems across the US, confirming that approximately 218 million Americans are currently drinking water that is harmful to their health.
What is chromium-6?
Chromium is an element which occurs naturally in soil, rock, plants, volcanic dust, and animals.
According to the National Toxicology Program, chromium comes in several forms, with chromium-3 being an essential nutrient for the human body.
The 2000 film titled “Erin Brockovich”, which was based on a true story about the environmental activist of the same name who fought to expose the link between Cr-6 and cancer, highlighted just how dangerous cr-6 could be to human health.
In a new statement, Brockovich has said: “Whether it is Chromium-6, Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) or lead, the public is looking down the barrel of a serious water crisis across the country that has been building for decades, all due to corruption, complacency, and utter incompetence.”
Why is it not being monitored?
The US Environmental Protection Agency has simply never set a specific limit for the amount of Cr-6 in drinking water, likely because the long-term health consequences of ingesting it has also not been monitored.
In 1991, the EPA decided that a general limit of 100 parts per billion of all types of chromium would be set, following scientific proof that Cr-6 can be considered as a highly toxic chemical. This limit, however, is inadequate for protecting human health.
The only state that has currently enforced a maximum contaminant level is California, but 7 million Americans living there are still receiving highly contaminated water.
Scientists have proven that airborne Cr-6 particles can cause lung cancer, which is why the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration has set strict limits for air quality in the workplace, but it seems that the drinking water has been left unnoticed for decades.
How does Cr-6 affect human health?
Chromium-6 is a highly toxic and carcinogenic chemical, which means that it can cause cancer.
David Andrews, a senior scientist with the Environmental Working Group and the co-author of the report, said: “In terms of cancer studies, this is the gold standard of animal studies.” He also confirmed that a separate study had already shown that workers routinely exposed to Cr-6 water had a higher rate of developing stomach cancer.
Andrews also confirmed that even when limits are set, there can still be challenges associated with pregnancy, warning that even low doses of cr-6 exposure can cause “much more serious problems” in the developmental stages of a fetus, infant or child.
What is being done about it?
The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment has taken the 2008 reports very seriously, setting enforceable public health standards for the quality of tap water.
Scientists believe that this would help to pose only “negligible risk over a lifetime of consumption”.
Many states are currently in the process of setting new limits and standards as well, but for now, it seems that a water filter would be the very best investment in your health.