Water Survey

No Hexavalent Chromium in My Tap Water Please!

1 Comment 22 December 2010

No Hexavalent Chromium in My Tap Water Please!

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit advocacy group, recently conducted a research study of tap water and found trace levels of hexavalent chromium (hex chrom) in the water supply of 35 U.S. cities including Boston, Tallahassee, San Jose, and Madison. Hex chrom has been identified as a toxic, cancer-causing chemical implicated in stomach and gastrointestinal cancers. What is being done to filter for hex chrom? Who is being held accountable?

Reports indicate that a national safety level for hex chrom in tap water is not yet established. Moreover, public utility agencies are not required to test for it. Essentially, there is no system in place to punish the guilty or protect the innocent in terms of hex chrom exposure in tap water.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Chromium is released to the environment from natural and anthropogenic sources, with the largest releases occurring from industrial sources.” The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) lists standards and policies regarding hex chrom exposure in the workplace. But, similar directives are not applied to utilities providing tap water to end users in the U.S.

Interestingly, bottled water suppliers are not required to test for hex chrom either. So, avoiding hex chrom exposure is out of the hands of the buyer. How can policy makers even up the odds for the average American who doesn’t work in an industrial setting, but clearly wants to avoid hex chrom exposure at all costs?

In light of EWG’s report, perhaps the category of corporate social responsibility (CSR) for water utility providers will expand to include hex chrom testing. Major corporations invest heavily in CSR and sustainability programs but shouldn’t water safety be included in these endeavors?

If utility providers are not forced to abide by national hex chrom safety standards, then municipal water infrastructure projects should develop systems that filter for toxic chemicals like hex chrom. Traces of toxic chemicals like lead and hex chrom are indicative that aging water infrastructure and out-moded legislation regulations need to be restructured in the U.S.

At present, hex chrom can be filtered using reverse osmosis filters on the home tap. But replacing these filters costs $200. In the economic times of the country, spending $200 on a reverse osmosis filter may not be feasible for many families.

Issues pertaining to water contamination effect industrialized and developing countries alike. The latter faces immediate consequences from unclean drinking water and poor sanitation, with high mortality rates from water-borne diseases. The former deals with long-term consequences from hex chrom exposure, with individuals suffering from stomach and gastrointestinal cancers.

Research studies and statistics on the rates of toxic chemicals in tap water is the first step in protecting end users against them. If tap water users are unaware of toxic trace levels in drinking water, they are powerless to lobby for change to protect their water supply.

Working on water problems includes updating aging water infrastructure, holding utility companies accountable for trace levels of toxicants and informing consumers about the contents of tap water. In the U.S., tap water users take drinking water safety for granted. But as the EWG study reveals, water concerns are on tap in the U.S. as well.

Do you live in one of the cities where hex chrom was found in the tap water supply?

Would you invest in the reverse osmosis filter to protect your tap water against hex chrom and other toxins?

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