If you’ve heard anything about hexavalent chromium in tap water, it was probably from the movie Erin Brockovich. In that film, the legal clerk and environmental activist Erin Brockovich (as played by Julia Roberts) built a case against California’s Pacific Gas and Electric litigation alleging that the cancer-causing hexavalent chromium the company was using to fight corrosion in cooling towers had seeped into the ground water of Hinkley, California.
Since settling that case in 1996, Brockovich has continued to work on cases involving hexavalent chromium. Just last year, she began investigating a case in Midland, Texas and assisted in filing a lawsuit against Prime Tanning Corp. of St. Joseph, Missouri. And if recent tests are any indication, Erin Brockovich and others like her might soon be swamped with similar cases.
Recent laboratory tests commisioned by the Environmental Working Group have found hexavalent chromium in the tap water of 31 cities. More disturbing still is the fact that the tap water from only 35 cities was sampled for the cancer-causing chemical, meaning it was found in 89 percent of the cities tested. The EWG estimates that 74 million Americans in 42 states could be drinking tap water that is polluted with chromium or its carcinogenic form, hexavalent chromium.
Hexavalent chromium is also known as Chromium-6 or Chromium (VI), though many refer to it as the “Erin Brockovich chemical”. It is the cancer-causing variant of chromium. The Environmental Protection Agency allows for 100 parts per billion of total chromium in drinking water, but it has not set a safe or acceptable limit for hexavalent chromium. As such, water utility companies are not required to test for hexavalent chromium. California is the only state that requires such testing, and it has set a legal limit of .06 parts per billion. Of the 31 cities that had hexavalent chromium, 25 cities had levels higher than that amount.
However, there is no set limit for chromium-6, and water utility companies are not required to test for it. California is the only state that mandates testing, and that state’s legal limit for chromium-6 in drinking water is .06 ppb. Sutton and her colleagues found that 25 of the 31 cities with chromium-6 contaminated water had levels higher than that amount.
In an ideal world, the EPA would set legal limits for every state and require that water utilities test to ensure hexavalent chromium doesn’t enter our tap water. But as Erin Brockovich knows all too well, we don’t live in an ideal world. So how do you remove hexavalent chromium from tap water? Many reverse osmosis systems will remove chromium-6, as well as other contaminants.
Our Pentek RO-3500 Reverse Osmosis System reduces 86.6 percent of hexavalant chromium and 92.8 percent of trivalent chromium. What a RO system removes or reduces depends entirely on the filters and membranes used. We do carry many reverse osmosis membranes that reduce hexavalent chromium, so if you have an existing RO system and want to ensure you reduce chromium-6, please give us a call at 866-438-3458 or e-mail us at [email protected]
Not sure if you should be concerned? Our eXact Micro 7+ Standard Photometer Kit allows you to test water for hexavalent chromium and many other contaminants.