Harmful Chemicals in Drinking Water

May 11, 2017

A Cancerous Chemical in Drinking Water

There can be many contaminants in drinking water, including lead, pharmaceuticals and various metals. One such contaminant that’s often present in drinking water is the dangerous chemical chromium-6. This chemical poses a risk to your health even when it’s only present in small amounts.

What Is Chromium-6?

Chromium is a natural metallic element that is found in natural things. It has no odor or taste, so you wouldn’t know it’s in your drinking water just by sense. Chromium-6 is a type of chromium that’s also called hexavalent chromium. This type is found when chromium deposits erode, although it is also created through man-made industrial processes, which have often resulted in chromium entering the environment.

Although chromium-6 can be natural, its exposure has been shown to cause cancer. Studies in animals showed that this chemical in drinking water caused the animals to develop cancer. Scientists decided that there was a similar risk from humans drinking water with this chemical in it. Numerous scientists decided that just small amounts of the chemical pose a cancer risk.

What Is the Problem With Chromium-6 in Drinking Water?

You may have been introduced to the idea of chromium-6 in the popular movie Erin Brockovich. If you’ve never seen this movie or forget what happens, it’s about a real person who fought to show that a company was contaminating the drinking water in a California city with the chemical chromium-6.

While this movie aired in 2000 and Brockovich went against the company about 25 years ago, there is still chromium-6 in the water. This is not just happening in a California city, but all around the United States.

The Environmental Working Group explains that water has higher levels of chromium-6 than scientists consider safe in every state of the country, affecting over 200 million people, the equivalent of over two-thirds of the nation’s population. There is a fight between people who are seeking for the chemical to be regulated because of its health risk and those who want fewer regulations that would cause problems for industry.

Scientists decided that the goal level of chromium-6 in drinking water for public health should be 0.02 parts per billion. The Environmental Working Group cites that California state regulators chose a chromium-6 legal limit in 2014 that was 500 times higher than the recommended limit at 10 parts per billion. And this is the only legal limit that has been set throughout the country.

Unfortunately, this dangerous chemical is prevalent in drinking water throughout the United States, and the government has not been regulating it to get this problem under control. It’s important to be aware of this concern, follow its progress and try to take actions to have safer, healthier drinking water. 

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