Remember Erin Brockovich? Two-Thirds Of U.S. Tap Water Still Contains Carcinogen From Famous Case
By Kurtis Bright
Alarming New Study Shows that over 60 Percent Of U.S. Tap Water Tainted with Chromium-6
Nothing ever changes, at least that’s what they say. And when it comes to the carcinogen found in U.S. tap water that was made famous in the film “Erin Brockovich,” that sure seems to be the case.
Turns out that a feel-good Hollywood movie depicting the little guy fighting back and winning against big corporate polluters is strictly fiction: nearly two-thirds of Americans still drink tap water tainted with chromium-6. That’s the deadly carcinogen that was at the heart of the lawsuit in the case that made Erin Brockovich famous. In that case, residents of Hinkley, California sued and won against Pacific Gas & Electric for its guilt in poisoning the groundwater in the region.
But film awards and self-congratulation aside, the reality is that in a new study performed by the Environmental Working Group, it turns out that two-thirds of Americans may still be exposed to the dangerous carcinogen through their tap water every day.
In the study, which ran from 2013 to 2016, EWG took over 60,000 water samples from various locations around the U.S., with a result that over 66 percent of them tested positive for the chemical.
And this not a trivial thing, yet another nasty chemical in a plethora of them to which we are subjected every day, something to be ignored with a shrug. In fact, the National Toxicology Program has stated that ingesting chromium-6 is strongly linked to cancer in lab rats and mice. In addition to being identified as a source of lung cancer, it can also cause liver damage, damage to the reproductive system, and problems with brain development.
As of this writing, California is the only state that regulates chromium-6 levels, mandating that there can be no more than ten parts per billion in state drinking water. However, even the state’s own Environmental Health Hazard Assessment says that amount is dangerously high. That study dating from 2008 recommended levels no higher than 0.02 parts per billion, which means that the state’s actual rate of 10 ppb is some 500 times too high.
Chromium is used in the manufacture of metal plating and stainless steel, and it is a key ingredient in wood preservation and textile manufacturing. Some of the cities that tested highest for chromium-6 were Las Vegas, Nevada, and Phoenix, Arizona, as well as Oklahoma City.
And the sad fact is that we’ve known for over 20 years that hexavalent chromium (the six in chromium-6) causes lung cancer when inhaled. However the most recent mice and rat studies have shown conclusively that it is also a source of malignant tumors of the mouth and small intestines when ingested, for instance in water.
“I think it’s resolved, as much as it can be resolved,” said George Alexeeff, deputy director of scientific affairs at California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment in an interview with Scientific American.
For its part, the Environmental Protection Agency is moving with the utmost urgency as usual: the EPA has released a statement saying it is studying the matter and may issue national guidelines “soon.”
Meanwhile, millions of children and adults consume a dangerous carcinogen on a daily basis. Thanks, EPA.
The Brockovich case won a record-setting jury award of over $300 million dollars for people living in Hinkley. So one has to wonder what might the consequences be nationwide were the EPA to admits that the current chromium-6 levels allowed are much more dangerous than previously thought.
With so many businesses not to mention the government itself on the brink of losing perhaps billions in the inevitable deluge of lawsuits that would follow, its no wonder they’re slow-rolling any changes.
At least it is crystal clear that they no longer are concerned with protecting the health of the people so much as they care about protecting the fiscal health of business--and covering their own asses.