EPA Sort of Takes Action on Carcinogen in Drinking Water

Good news (sort of) -- responding to areport released last week by the Environmental Working Group, the EPA has just announced that they are urging water utilities to begin testing drinking water for the hexavalent chromium (otherwise known as chromium 6 or that carcinogen made famous by Julia Roberts "Erin Brockovich").

EWG reported that there was chrom 6 in the drinking water of at least 31 U.S. cities and 25 of those showed what is believed to be dangerously high levels. The metal is naturally occurring and also comes from industries like steel manufacturing, leather tanning, welding, dyes, and it was used as in industrial cooling equipment because of its anti-corrosive properties. It's long known to be carcinogenic when inhaled and research also reveals that when ingested it can be dangerous as well.

While it's welcome news that the EPA is finally getting a bit more serious about chrom 6, they still aren't going far enough. The Washington Post reports:

The EPA said Wednesday that it is issuing guidance to the utilities explaining how to test for the chemical but is not requiring tests at this time. The agency said it will also give technical help to the 31 cities identified in the survey - including Washington and Bethesda - so they can set up a monitoring and sampling procedure for hexavalent chromium...

Currently our drinking water is tested for total chromium, which includes chrom 6 and chrom 3. Chromium 3 is actually good for us, but chrom 6 is definitely not. Testing just for chrom 6 however, is "technically challenging." "Many laboratories that handle standard tests for water companies are not equipped to perform the more sophisticated tests," reportsthe Washington Post. Cleaning up chrom 6 in drinking water is not going to be easy nor cheap and there is already huge resistance from companies who've been dishing this stuff into our water supply for decades.

The EPA will be submitting a report in the summer on their research into whether the agency sees a widespread problem with chrom 6 in the country's drinking water. Swift action should be taken to ensure that the country's drinking water is indeed made safe and that industry is held accountable where necessary.


AlterNet / By Tara Lohan

Posted at December 27, 2010, 9:42am

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