According to a new study released by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), 31 of 35 American cities’ tap water is highly contaminated with hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium-6, a dangerous carcinogen. Carcinogens are substances that may cause cancer.
Norman, Oklahoma; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Riverside California are on the top of the EWG’s list of cities with contaminated water supply. Most contaminations have been found in the west and the New England area.
“I was expecting to find hexavalent chromium in some of the cities we checked but I didn’t expect it to be so widespread,” Rebecca Sutton, a senior scientist with the EWG and the lead author of the study, told CNN.
The Environmental Protection Agency does not require water utilities to test for chromium-6, nor has it established a legal threshold for how much can be in the public’s tap water. Yet, the EPA has classified chromium-6 as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”
Sutton also explained that there is an acknowledged connection between exposure to chromium-6 and a high risk of stomach cancer in humans. There is a large amount of evidence that shows gastrointestinal tumors in rats that have been exposed to the toxin.
The battle against contaminated water is not a new one. In 1996, Erin Brockovich helped bring about $330 million lawsuit against Pacific Gas & Electric when it was discovered that chromium-6 had poisoned the water supply of Hinkley, California.
The best way to protect yourself if your city is in question? Buy a water filter. Then approach your local council and environmental protection agency to find out the impact of these findings.
“It’s a step you can take yourself, you don’t have to wait for government action,” Sutton said. “With the water filter, you actually know you’re removing [hexavalent chromium].”