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Entries in Hexavalent Chromium (3)

Wednesday
Jan122011

Drinking Water: EPA Issues New Recommendations

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Several weeks after promising to address the issue of chromium-6 levels in drinking water, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued new recommendations for monitoring the potentially hazardous chemical.

Chromium-6, or hexavalent chromium, is the chemical made famous by the 2000 film Erin Brockovich. It was back in the news last month after an environmental organization released a report indicating that the chemical has contaminated drinking water in more than 30 cities.

The Environmental Working Group tested tap water in 35 cities and found hexavalent chromium, or chromium-6, in 31 of the cities.

Chromium-6 was the same chemical that had seeped into the groundwater of Hinkley, Calif., where Erin Brockovich waged her fight, and whose residents were awarded a $333 million settlement from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. The movie drew attention to the potential dangers of hexavalent chromium, and scientists at the Environmental Working Group say previous research found the chemical can cause cancer, and that its presence in drinking water is much more widespread than originally believed.

Currently, the EPA only requires water systems to test for the presence of total chromium, which includes chromium-6. In response to what the agency calls "emerging public health information," the EPA has made a number of updated recommendations for water systems to follow. Among the new recommendations are collecting and testing samples at more points throughout the water distribution systems as well as more frequent testing.

"As we continue to learn more about the potential risks of exposure to chromium-6, we will work closely with states and local officials to ensure the safety of America's drinking water supply," said EPA administrator Lisa Jackson.

But as the Environmental Working Group, the group that published the report on chromium-6 in drinking water, stresses the potential dangers of chromium-6, other scientists say there's no good science on just how much of an impact the chemical can have on public health.

"The National Toxicology Program has found that hexavalent chromium in drinking water shows clear evidence of carcinogenic activity in laboratory animals, increasing the risk of otherwise rare gastrointestinal tumors," reads the report's executive summary. The National Toxicology Program is a branch of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and considers hexavalent chromium a "probable carcinogen."

"There have also been some other health effects seen in animal studies, such as anemia and damage to the lymph nodes, liver and gastrointestinal tract," said Rebecca Sutton, the report's lead researcher.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec212010

New Report Raises Concern Over 'Erin Brockovich' Chemical in Drinking Water

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Hexavalent chromium, the chemical made famous by the 2000 film "Erin Brockovich," is once again in the news after an environmental organization released a report indicating that the chemical has contaminated drinking water in more than 30 cities nationwide.

The Environmental Working Group tested tap water in 35 cities and found hexavalent chromium, or chromium-6, in 31 of the cities.

Scientists for the group say previous research found the chemical can cause cancer, and that its presence in drinking water is much more widespread than originally believed.

Regulations set by the Environmental Protection Agency set a total chromium limit of 100 ppb, or parts per billion, for drinking water. 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. Researchers found that 25 of the 31 cities with chromium-6 contaminated water had levels higher than that amount.

Norman, Okla., the city with the highest concentration of chromium-6, measured about 200 times that level, with a concentration of about 12 ppb.

But some scientists say that's an extremely small amount. One part per billion is equivalent to about a drop in 250 gallon drums of water, or three seconds in a century.

Toxicology experts say inhaling chromium-6 can cause cancer, but there isn't much data on the dangers of drinking it.

"The evidence is fairly good that it's carcinogenic in people in occupational settings who inhale it and get a good dose," said Dr. Shan Yin, assistant medical director of the Cincinnati Drug and Poison Information Center.

Most unintentional chromium exposure comes from industrial processes, such as leather tanning and metal plating.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Dec192010

Probable Carcinogen Present in Many Cities' Water Supplies

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- An environmental group is set to release a study that found the probable carcinogen hexavalent chromium is present to some degree in the drinking water supplies of 31 American cities.  The Environmental Working Group report is due out on Monday.

The Environmental Protection Agency has not set acceptable limits for hexavalent chromium in tap water but is about to do so. California has proposed a limit of 0.06 parts per billion.  It is the chemical at the center of the fact-based 2000 film, Erin Brockovitch

The Environmental Working Group surveyed 35 cities and found the substance in the water of 31 of them.  Of the 31 cities, 25 water supplies exceeded the proposed goal in California.  The highest levels, at more than 200 times the California figure, were in Norman, Okla.

Hexavalent chromium was commonly used in many industrial processes 20 and 30 years ago and is still used in some today. 

The American Chemistry Council represents the chemical industry and told the Washington Post the California goal is unrealistic because some water supplies have hexavalent chromium levels higher than the California proposal that occur naturally.  Medical experts tell the Post the study is "disturbing" and say the U.S. should strive to have no hexavalent chromium in drinking supplies, or at least limit it to the California goal.

Hexvalent chromium has been known to cause lung cancer when inhaled but recent research on animals shows it causes other potentially deadly conditions when ingested.

The Environmental Working Group says on its website it is dedicated to using public information to protecting the public and the environment.  Most of its funding comes from grants and private donations.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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