Study Shows Toxic Exposure to Chromium-6 Threatens 200 Million Americans
Nearly two-thirds of Americans are threatened by the presence of chromium-6, a heavy metal known to cause cancer in humans and animals. According to a news report in The Guardian, a new report released this week by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, says 200 million Americans across all 50 states are exposed to unsafe levels of chromium-6 or hexavalent chromium, a toxic metal that became known after Erin Brockovich, a paralegal who helped her law firm get a $333 million settlement from PG & E for poisoning residents of Hinkley, California.
Widespread Presence of Chromium-6
Julia Roberts won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Brockovich in a biopic that went into detail about how the utility company had not just poisoned residents of this town, but tried to cover it up. Despite that landmark case, contamination of America’s drinking water is an ongoing battle, one the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency seems to be losing. Brockovich told the Guardian that the reason for this widespread contamination is lack of investment in water-related infrastructure.
The study conducted by EWG is the first nationwide test for hexavalent chromium contamination in U.S. drinking water. Researchers found that 12,000 Americans are at risk for getting cancer. The report states that drinking water in Phoenix, Arizona, has the highest concentration of the toxic metal. Of the 80 water samples taken across the city, 79 showed average concentrations of 7.853 ppb when the goal is to get it down to 0.02 ppb. Despite these alarming numbers the nation currently has no national drinking water standard for chromium-6.
Hexavalent chromium is widely used in electroplating, stainless steel production, leather tanning, textile manufacturing and wood preservation. Exposure to chromium-6 occurs when we breathe it in, ingest it through food or water or make direct contact with the skin. Toxic exposure to chromium-6 could cause lung cancer, nasal cancers, kidney and liver damage, skin irritation and ulceration as well as eye irritation and damage.
What Can We Do?
Until regulators do something about this public health issue, what can we do as ordinary citizens to prevent our families from being exposed to chromium-6. Erin Brockovich says pay attention to local elections because a lot of these issues are handled at a local level. Work with your public health officials to determine if hexavalent chromium is present in your environment such as water, air, soil and at what levels, particularly if you live near a location where chromium compounds are disposed or manufactured. Children should avoid playing in soils near uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. Limit occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium compounds.
If you or a loved one has suffered serious health effects as a result of toxic exposure in your neighborhood or on the job, contact an experienced California personal injury lawyer who can help you better understand your legal rights and options.