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Probable carcinogen found in 31 of 35 U.S. cities’ drinking water

by nickj on December 20, 2010

A study released Monday by the Environmental Working Group sampled the tap water supplies of 35 U.S. cities, and researchers found that 31 contained significant amounts of Chromium 6.

Chromium 6, or hexagonal chromium, is a carcinogenic chemical that first came to the public's attention in 2000 after the film Erin Brockovich was released. The movie told the true story of a utility company that poisoned the water supply of a California city, ultimately resulting in a lawsuit against the organization. Hexagonal chromium was commonly used before the '90s as an industrial chemical and was deemed a "probable carcinogen" by the National Toxicology Program in 2008 after it was shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals.

Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the midst of deciding whether or not to place a limit on chromium levels in tap water, reports the Washington Post. At the moment, there are federal limitations for the amount of total chromium in tap water, but this includes both harmful and helpful varieties of the chemical, the latter of which is a mineral called trivalent chromium, which allows the body metabolize glucose.

According to USA Today, the highest levels were found in Norman, Oklahoma; Honolulu, Hawaii; Riverside, California; Madison, Wisconsin; and San Jose, California, respectively.

The study also estimated that about 74 million Americans in 42 states drink water containing total chromium on a fairly regular basis.

California proposed a limit on the levels of chromium in the state's tap water last year. If it passes, California will be the first state to pioneer the safety measures, the Post reports.

According to the news source, the study is the first analysis of its kind to be made public.

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