Tap water consumed by millions of Americans may be infected with exceedingly high levels of chromium-6.
The carcinogenic chemical was featured in the critically acclaimed 2000 movie Erin Brockovich.
According to the National Toxicology Program, while the element Chromium is naturally found in rocks, animals, plants, and soil, Chromium-6 is produced through industrial processes and is used, among other things, in electroplating, stainless steel production, and textile manufacturing.
Erin Brockovich carcinogen: Tap water of millions of Americans contaminated with Chromium-6
However, in a recent assessment of the water systems across the United States, the independent advocacy group Environmental Working Group found that tap water consumed by as many as 218 million Americans is contaminated with chromium-6.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the limit set for chromium-6 in water systems is 100 parts per billion, something that the new study has said is “outdated,” as reported by Patch.com. In contrast, California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment has set the limit of the carcinogenic chemical at .02 parts per billion.
The study goes on to say that “state scientists in California and elsewhere say (chromium-6) causes cancer when ingested at even extraordinarily low levels.” The contamination can lead to cancer, reproductive problems and liver damage.
“Yet federal regulations are stalled by a chemical industry challenge that could mean no national regulation of a chemical state scientists in California and elsewhere say causes cancer when ingested at even extraordinarily low levels,” the report says.
Erin Brockovich carcinogen: States and cities with high levels of Chromium-6
Oklahoma, Arizona and California were found to have highest average levels of the chemical. Among cities, Phoenix had the highest average level. St. Louis County, Houston, Los Angeles and Suffolk County, New York, were also found to have high levels.
An interactive map (which can be viewed here) details the affected areas.
In a written statement, Erin Brockovich said, “Whether it is chromium-6, PFOA or lead, the public is looking down the barrel of a serious water crisis across the country that has been building for decades.” She said the problems are arising due “corruption, complacency and utter incompetence.”
As reported by CNN, a representative of the EPA has said the agency is “working on a health assessment of chromium 6 that will be released for public comment in 2017.”