Basic water filters do not remove hexavalent chromium. However, reverse-osmosis systems designed for home use can take the chemical out of water.
The Washington Post reports:
"The analysis, released ... by the Environmental Working Group, is the first nationwide look at hexavalent chromium in drinking water to be made public.
The advocacy group sampled tap water from 35 cities and detected hexavalent chromium in 31 of those communities. Of those, 25 had levels that were higher than a health goal proposed last year by the state of California."
Hexavalent chromium (also known as chromium-6) is classified as "likely to be carcinogenic to humans" by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Yet, despite its known toxicity no legal limit for the cancer-causing chemical in drinking water has been set.
The chemical, it seems, has been flying beneath the regulatory radar for some time, and it was just last year that California took the first step toward establishing a statewide enforceable limit, setting a proposed public health goal of 0.06 parts per billion of chromium-6 in drinking water.
Now, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has also released a report that found 89 percent of cities sampled had chromium-6 in their drinking water, and some, like Norman, Oklahoma, contain it at more than 200 times California's proposed safe limit.
A History of Fraud and Deception
Chromium-6 is most widely known as the chemical featured in the 2000 movie "Erin Brockovich." Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) of Hinkley, California was accused of contaminating groundwater supplies with chromium-6 for more than three decades, and eventually paid $333 million in damages in 1996 for the contamination.
However, this was not before trying their best to cover up the serious nature of the contamination. As EWG reported:
"A 2005 Wall Street Journal investigation and a separate EWG report based on court documents and depositions from a similar lawsuit in Kettleman City, Calif. revealed that PG&E had hired consultants to publish a fraudulent analysis of cancer mortality in Chinese villagers exposed to hexavalent chromium, in an attempt to disprove the link between the chemical and cancer.
The study was published in the respected Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, and scientists and regulators — including the EPA — cited the fraudulent article in research and safety assessments. The journal retracted the paper in 2006 in response to EWG's request for corrective action."
After re-assessing the data, California officials later found a significant increase in stomach cancer in those exposed, and then, in 2007, a study by the National Toxicology Program found that the chemical in drinking water increases the risk of gastrointestinal tumors in animals.
Although hexavalent chromium can get into groundwater from the erosion of soil and rock, it is a common pollutant from steel and pulp mills, as well as metal-plating and leather tanning facilities. As a result, industry has been fighting against state-mandated regulation of the chemical in drinking water, and as no limit has yet been set, many Americans' health may be at risk.
Is the "Erin Brockovich Chemical" Putting Your Health at Risk?
"At least 74 million Americans in 42 states drink chromium-polluted tap water, much of it likely in the form of cancer-causing hexavalent chromium," EWG reported in their executive summary.
They found the chemical in 31 of 35 cities tested, and noted that annual water quality reports from all cities tested regularly reported finding chromium in their water supplies, even using equipment that is far less sensitive than that used by EWG for the study. This means the total number of Americans at risk from this cancer-causing chemical may be much higher than the EWG report showed.
The trouble is, chromium-6 is only one contaminant you should be concerned about in your drinking water. The truth is, most public water supplies are loaded with hazardous contaminants, such as disinfection byproducts, fluoride, and pharmaceutical drugs, to name just a few. And there's no telling what health problems these tap water toxins will impact your health with after a lifetime of exposure.
Only 91 contaminants are regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, yet more than 60,000 chemicals are used within the United States. Government and independent scientists have linked many of these chemicals to cancer and other health risks, but regulators are not taking steps to make sure your drinking water is safe.
Further, bottled water is NOT a safe alternative as it's often drawn from the same municipal water systems as tap water, which means it often still contains chromium-6 and other toxins found in public water supplies.
What's the Best Option for Safe, Pure Water?
You need to make water your beverage of choice if you want to be healthy -- but it should be purified water, and by this I do NOT mean bottled water from your supermarket.
One of the best alternatives to the tap may be finding a gravity-fed raw spring in your area. This water is naturally filtered by the earth and it is not pasteurized or heated like nearly all commercial bottled waters.
Natural spring water is "living water," in the same way that raw food is "living food," which is why it's some of the most healthful water on the planet.
Now, before you dismiss this idea because you think there are no such springs in your neck of the woods, there is a Web site called FindaSpring.com that will help you find a spring in your area. Typically they are even monitored by the local municipalities for contaminants.
The next best option is to filter the water that comes out of your tap, but there are benefits and drawbacks to virtually every water filtration system on the market. Currently I use a whole house carbon-based water filtration system, and prior to this I used reverse osmosis (RO) to purify my water.
You can read my latest article on water filtration here to help you make a decision about what type of water filtration system will be best for you and your family. Since most water sources are now severely polluted, the issue of water filtration and purification couldn't be more important.