Toxic Water Contamination Much Worse Than Originally Thought

Toxic Water Contamination Much Worse Than Originally Thought


Recent research has revealed that around 75% of water sources that supply tap water to two-thirds of the population in the United States is contaminated with a cancer-causing substance.  It’s called chromium-6, and it only takes a minute amount to expose someone to serious health-risks.  Chromium-6 is also the same chemical that contaminated the water supply in the movie based on the true life story of Erin Brockovich. 

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What is It?

Chromium-6 is a toxin that is usually produced as a byproduct of manufacturing, industry, power generation, dye-making and steel production, and it’s everywhere.  Keep in mind that chromium-6 is not the same as chromium-3, which is an essential nutrient that our bodies need.  Chromium-3 is found naturally in the environment, where chromium-6 is formed largely through human activities. 

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Extent of the Problem

The EPA has been slow to regulate this contaminant until pressure from Congress as public concerns increased.  The agency finally asked water utilities to test their supplies for chromium-6, and samples were taken from 60,000 different communities around the country.  More than 250,000,000 people are at risk of high levels of chromium-6.  A growing number of research projects have uncovered that the health risks of repeated ingestion of contaminated water can lead to a wide-range of cancers and other serious conditions. 

However, the EPA has still not issued regulations or strict guidelines in order to protect the American public, despite the known health risks.  There are a couple of theories that are floating around as to why this is the case, and they are the usual suspects that most of us think about.  One is money.  It would take utilities and states tens of millions of dollars each to adapt to new technologies, testing and purification processes.  It would cost the EPA, states, and polluters billions of dollars to clean up sources of contamination. 

It would also place a lot of pressure on industries to prevent chromium-6 from entering the water supply, and that costs a lot of money that they don’t want to spend.  Combined, these examples point to why money is the biggest factor when it comes to explaining why the EPA is slow to act.  Unfortunately, not enough people are getting sick and dying to make it financially-viable to institute real reforms, and that’s the cold, hard truth.

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Dangers of Chromium-6

Exposures to chromium-6 can lead to lung cancer, DNA alterations that can cause numerous other forms of cancer, heart and respiratory disease, neurological problems and reproductive issues.  Furthermore, it can cause kidney or liver damage, a wide-range of skin and respiratory ailments along with tooth decay.  While chromium-6 is known to be most-dangerous when inhaled, research is starting to make strong connections with drinking and illness as well.

At the current time, the EPA sort of suggests, and I mean this in the loosest interpretation of the phrase, that concentrations be less than 100 parts per billion.  In contrast, California’s legal limit is 10 parts per billion.  However, the California government also says that the safest, optimal level is only .02 parts per billion, or five thousand times less than current regulations.  This is potent stuff we’re talking about, and over a lifetime of consumption, most of our population is at risk of getting sick.   Keep in mind that 1 part per billion is the equivalent of one drop of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.  This law was enacted, in large part, due to the Erin Brockovich scandal after people started getting sick from drinking tap water.   

This is a real problem that exists in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and in groundwater supplies across the country.  Chances are that anywhere where there is or was industry or power generation, chromium-6 is in the water below or downstream.  To make matters worse, the only effective way to remove chromium-6 from water supplies is by using a special filter that is not really designed for residential use.

Consequently, it’s up to communities and polluters to invest in these types of filters that are not cheap.  They also require ongoing maintenance and the special disposal of cartridges.  Consequently, even our own emergency water purification techniques can’t get rid of chromium-6.  At the end of the day, it is thought that 12,000 people a year get sick from drinking water that has levels of chromium-6 in excess of EPA suggestions. However, that number could climb into the hundreds of thousands if you apply California standards. 

Keep in mind that not everyone gets sick and dies right away.  In fact, the alterations of DNA as well as the onset of other ailments can take years and years.  This makes it difficult to see this as an immediate threat, and it makes it easier to attribute getting sick to other causes.  However, this threat is very real, and it is something that impacts all of us.  So, where can you go to find safe water supplies? 

We recommend doing your own research to find that answer, because once word gets out, a lot of people are going to want to move there.


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