The movie ‘Erin Brockovich’ made chromium, the cancer-causing metal infamous, but now according to a new study it is turning up in regular tap water in Chicago and over two dozen other cities, making it necessary for federal regulators to adopt stricter standards.
Despite, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Toxicology Programme (NTP) scientists linking hexavalent chromium ingestion to cancer, the EPA has not made testing for the toxic metal mandatory for Chicago or the other cities.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a Washington-based research and advocacy organization hired an independent laboratory to test the water flowing through the nation’s taps, which found chromium in treated drinking water from 31 cities. The amount in the water pumped to 7 million people in Chicago and its suburbs from Lake Michigan was found to be three times higher than California officials’ safety limit proposed, last year.
A report released Monday reveals the cities of Norman, Okla.; Honolulu; Riverside, Calif.; and Madison, Wis. to have significantly higher levels than the proposed California limit, with Milwaukee water levels the same as in Chicago.
Chromium found naturally in the environment is also released by industry into waterways. Studying the potential health threats of many pollutants, researchers indicate a clear risk of stomach cancer from drinking water contaminated with hexavalent chromium or chromium-6.
Rebecca Sutton, a senior scientist with the EWG said for years it was not considered a problem, as acids in our stomachs converted chromium-6 into chromium-3, an essential nutrient. However, new science shows our stomachs cannot take care of everything and if this dangerous form of chromium gets into our bodies, it can cause damage.
The source of chromium in Chicago’s drinking water is unclear, however, some of the nation’s biggest industrial sources i. e. the four steel mills in northwest Indiana discharging wastewater into the city’s source of drinking water could be to responsible.