A new report reveals everyday sources of drinking water expose 200 million American people to chromium-6, a chemical linked to cancer. Sixteen years after the film “Erin Brockovich” brought worldwide attention to chemical pollution in Hinkley, California, two-thirds of Americans are still at risk from the dangerous heavy metal. Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a new report on September 20 that found unsafe levels of chromium-6 in tap water across all 50 states.

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The EWG report summarizes the independent review of data collected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the first nationwide evaluation of chromium-6 contamination in US drinking water. The levels of chromium-6 found in drinking water across the nation put 12,000 Americans at risk for cancer, according to the report’s co-authors David Andrews and Bill Walker, senior scientist and managing editor of EWG. In response to the study results, Erin Brockovich herself is back to demand more regulatory action to ensure clean, healthy drinking water. “The water system in this country is overwhelmed and we aren’t putting enough resources towards this essential resource,” she told The Guardian in an email. “We simply can’t continue to survive with toxic drinking water.”

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A huge part of the problem is that, despite the $333 million settlement Brockovich helped win for residents of Hinkley and mounting scientific evidence linking chromium-6 to various forms of cancer, Walker explains, “the US currently has no national drinking water standard for chromium-6.”

“Part of the reason behind writing this report is really highlighting how our regulatory system is broken – in its ability to incorporate new science, and its ability to publish and update drinking water standards,” Andrews added.

Chromium-6, also known as hexavalent chromium, is used in a number of processes, but the electric power industry is one of the largest users of the dangerous chemical and the biggest source of contamination. A 2011 Earthjustice report revealed “the electric power industry reported 10.6m pounds of chromium and chromium compounds were released to the environment” two years earlier, which is 24 percent of the chromium released by all industries. At that time, the causal relationship between hexavalent chromium and cancer was already known, and even small exposure levels were proven to be dangerous to humans. Yet, the EPA and other regulatory agencies have yet to create federal standards to protect the most basic of life-supporting substances: our drinking water.

Via The Guardian

Images via Pixabay (1, 2)