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California sets goal for limiting hexavalent chromium in drinking water


Hexavalent chromium occurs naturally in some drinking water.  The metal is also used in a number of industrial applications and has entered some water supplies as a result of past waste-disposal practices. The U.S. national drinking water limit for total chromium is 100 ppb, but water system monitors are not required to distinguish what percentage of that is hexavalent chromium versus other less harmful ions such as trivalent chromium. The importance of speciation in controlling the environmental fate, toxicity and bioavailability of trace elements is now well recognized. With respect to chromium, a widely-used element in industry, specific attention has been devoted to distinguish hexavelent chromium that is classified to be carcinogenic from trivalent chromium that is believed to play a beneficial role in the glucose metabolism and therefore is included in some food supplements and health products.  Therefore, during the last decade, a bunch of rules and legislation has been established, meant to restrict the exposure of humans to hexavalent chromium. In January this year, U.S. EPA officials recommended that water systems start testing for hexavalent chromium, and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has said the agency will probably revise its standards soon.

California environmental officials have detected hexavalent chromium in the drinking water of an estimated 13 million people in 52 of the state's 58 counties, including Los Angeles.

At least 74 million Americans in 42 states drink chromium-polluted tap water, much of it probably tainted with hexavalent chromium, according to studies by the nonprofit Oakland-based Environmental Working Group. They also found chromium 6 in tap water from 31 of 35 cities tested last year, with some of the highest levels in Riverside (1.69 ppb) and San Jose (1.34 ppb).

California's public health goal for Chromium:
On Wednesday, July 27, the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) published the nation’s first public health goal (PHG) for hexavalent chromium in drinking water.  The PHG for hexavalent chromium is established at 0.02 parts per billion (ppb), a level at which adverse health effects are not expected to occur from a lifetime of exposure. That means for every million people who drink tap water with that level of hexavalent chromium every day for 70 years, there would likely be one additional case of cancer attributable to exposure to the metal, state officials said.

“This final public health goal is the culmination of years of study and research on the health effects of this chemical,” said Dr. George Alexeeff, OEHHA’s Acting Director. “As the nation’s first official goal for this contaminant, it will be an important tool that the Department of Public Health will use to develop a regulatory standard that will protect Californians from the health risks of chromium 6 in drinking water.”

“Adoption of the PHG is an important step in the process of ensuring high-quality drinking water for Californians,” said Dr. Alexeeff “ The PHG reflects the most recent and definitive scientific research and demonstrates OEHHA’s commitment to fully assessing the health risks of hexavalent chromium.”

Related information

OEHHA: Hexavalent Chromium in Drinking Water
OEHHA: Hexavalent Chromium Public Health Goal for Drinking Water
CDPH: Chromium-6 in Drinking Water Sources:  Sampling Results
Environmental Working Group: Cancer-causing Chromium (VI) Pollution in U.S. Tap Water
EPA: Recommendations for enhanced monitoring for Hexavalent Chromium (Chromium-6) in Drinking Water

Related EVISA Resources

Link page: All about chromium
Link Database: Legislation for Chromium in Drinking Water
Link Database: Toxicity of Chromium

Related EVISA News (newest first)

May 26, 2011: Oral ingestion of hexavalent chromium through drinking water and cancer mortality
January 19, 2011: EPA Issues Guidance for Enhanced Monitoring of Hexavalent Chromium in Drinking Water
November 7, 2010: US EPA offers chance to speak out against hexavalent chromium
September 15, 2010: EPA accuses chromium industry of withholding lung cancer study
 June 12, 2010: Chromium(VI) much more toxic than chromium(III): At least for freshwater algae a paradigm to revise?
May 17, 2007: Hexavalent Chromium in Drinking Water Causes Cancer in Lab Animals
June 8, 2006: Scientific journal adds fuel to ongoing chromium debate

last time modified: May 17, 2024

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