We know water as being two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, but there are more noxious chemical compounds that may lurk in our drinking water, according to the non-profit organization Environmental Working Group. In a recent study, EWG found that the water supply in 31 cities is contaminated with chromium 6, and that many more across the United States could be contaminated, as well.
Chromium 6 is known to cause cancer when inhaled, but studies have also linked tumors to the chemical when ingested. Lawsuits have been brought against companies that have contaminated ground water with chromium 6, most famously the lawsuit against Pacific Gas & Electric brought by legal assistant Erin Brockovich.
EWG tested the water supply in 35 cities and found that the average contamination rate for chromium 6 was .18 ppb, three times more than the safe health goal being considered in state of California. Currently, the federal government has not set a safe maximum for chromium-6, an action that EWG hopes this study will spur.
The five cities with the highest contamination rates were Norman, OK (12.9 ppb), Honolulu (2.0 ppb), Riverside, CA (1.69 ppb), Madison, WI (1.58 ppb) and San Jose, CA (1.34). The levels of chromium 6 in Hinkley, CA, which was not part of the study, but was the site of the PG & E spill featured in the Oscar-winning movie, Erin Brockovich, is 3.1 ppb.
Despite the risks associated with the chemical, some scientists believe the study was released to unnecessarily scare up public concern. Dr. Gilbert Ross, the medical director at The American Council on Science and Health cited a recent study done by California Cancer Registry epidemiologist Dr. John Morgan. His research highlighted that cancer rates in Hinkley were actually below the expected numbers for areas with similar demographics.
ACSH is a non-profit, but does receive a portion of its funding through corporations.
Read a personal statement by Dr. Gilbert Ross on Vitals.com