Recent studies have reported exceedingly high levels of chromium (VI) in the tap water of approximately 35 cities in the United States. Also known as hexavalent chromium, the toxic heavy metal has been classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” when consumed in drinking water. However, according to the National Toxicology Program, chromium (VI) in drinking water shows lucid evidence of carcinogenic activity in laboratory animals, as consumption of the chemical has been shown to drastically increase the risk of certain gastrointestinal tumors.
The Story Behind "Erin Brockovich"
You are probably wondering, Why has chromium (VI) been deemed the "Erin Brockovich Chemical?" In 2000, the true story of an inspirational and remarkable woman was relayed in an award-winning biographical film entitled "Erin Brockovich." In the film as well as in real life, Brockovich fought against the US West Coast energy corporation Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) after discovering evidence that the local groundwater in her town is contaminated with dangerous hexvalent chromium. Throughout her inspiring journey, Brockovich fights for cleaner drinking water devoid of the heavy metal in an attempt to prevent the ongoing symptoms of chromium (VI) consumption prevalent in her community and to make society safer place to live in.
Recent Reports on Levels of Chromium (VI)
Earlier in 2012, the Erin Brockovich chemical was found in tap water in Northwest Indiana at levels 16 to 41 times what California officials deem potable, most likely as a result of discharges from steel and pulp mills. Since this occurrence, similar reports have shown that the dangers of chromium (VI) have also gained notoriety in Chicago, Illinois – in fact, the amount of the heavy metal prevalent in Lake Michigan is currently about 9 times higher than the State of California’s adopted safety limit. Among the cities with the highest levels is Norman, Oklahoma, whose tap water contained 12.9 ppb of hexavalent chromium (VI), which was more than 200 times California’s proposed safe limit in 2010 (0.06 ppb).
Potential Health Effects of Chromium (VI) Consumption
Shockingly, at least 74 million Americans in nearly 7,000 communities drink tap water polluted with “total chromium,” which includes the potentially carcinogenic hexavalent compound. What risks do these people face by drinking contaminated water? The EPA’s updated analysis of the compound’s toxicity and its effects include anemia, damage to the gastrointestinal tract, lymph nodes, and liver, as shown by animal studies. Other physiologic effects include painless erosive ulceration on the skin and severe allergic contact dermatitis when skin comes in contact with the chemical. Furthermore, although the mechanisms of chromium (VI)-induced carcinogenicity are not completely understood, a significant number of chronic inhalation studies provide evidence that increased inhalation of compounds of the heavy metal results in an increased risk of lung, nasal, and sinus cancer in humans.
With knowledge of the intensity of the dangers of chromium (VI) consumption, it is imperative that you inform others of this ongoing problem and take precautions when drinking tap water not only in the aforementioned areas (Indiana, Oklahoma, etc.), but also anywhere you are. For more information regarding Erin Brockovich's journey and longlasting contributions to our society, visit her website at http://www.brockovich.com/index.html.