Cancer In The Water - 200 Million Americans At Risk

Categories: Health & Nutrition, News, Urban Issues, Rainwater Harvesting, Education, Extra

Product Details16 Years ago, in March of 2000, the movie Erin Brockovich  brought all of us along for a journey through Hinkley California, where the chemical Hexavalent Chromium contaminated the ground water in the town, causing an overwhelming amount of cancers and tumors in residents of the region.  The Chromium was used as a coolant for compressor station for a natural gas pipeline, and was improperly disposed of.  Since then, the State of California has set a safety standard of .02 parts per billion in the water, and is the only state who works to remove it from water distributed to the public.  More than .02 parts ber billion is considered to be unsafe.  

Here are the tested amounts of Chromium 6 as recently tested in the following regions:  

So while New York City has twice the recommended safety levels of chromium 6 in their tap water, Phoenix has more than 390 times the recommended amount in theirs.  That's nothing short of horrible!  Most people I know don't drink tap water.  But how does it effect us when we shower with it?  When we brush our teeth with it?  Those types of questions are important, but what to do about it is more important.   

Questions like:

How do we get clean water moving forward? 

The idea of living off the grid has never looked so beautiful.  If the ground water is tainted, rain water catchment might be the better solution.  There are also various devices for catching water from the air.  If you're using a well, look at the next option:

How do we remove Chromium-6 from the water?

According to PBS in a similar article from 2013 (back when only 70 million American's tested positive for high quantities of the chemical):  

The most effective way to remove chromium-6 from drinking water is with an ion exchange water treatment unit, said Ian Webster, president of Project Navigator, an environmental engineering project management company, retained to represent the Hinkley community. PG&E is using this technique to treat the drinking water in Hinkley.

The technology relies on tiny beads of Jello-like resin packed into columns. As the chromium-laced water travels through the treatment unit, chromium-6 ions cling to the resin beads, getting removed from the water in the process. This technology is also effective for removing arsenic and manganese, which are also present in Hinkley groundwater.

A word of warning though: Over time, the metals build up in the filter, reducing its effectiveness. The unit must be actively monitored and maintained, and filters must be replaced regularly.

“It’s very much like buying a car,” Webster said. “After 10 years, you’ve spent more on the cost of annual maintenance than the price of the actual car.”

Click the interactive map to see what it's like where you live

But here’s the catch. While effective at removing chromium, these systems are not terribly practical, says Renee Short, acting research director with the Environmental Working Group.

“If you’re actually looking for residential water treatment units, there just aren’t that many ion exchange units that are certified to reduce hexavalent chromium,” she said.

She recommends using reverse osmosis filters instead, many of which have been certified to remove chromium-6, along with other contaminants. Reverse osmosis filters are more affordable and easier for consumers to find at their local hardware store.

Reverse osmosis works by pumping water across a semi-permeable membrane. Like a high-pressure version of a coffee filter, water is squeezed across the membrane. In addition to chromium 6, such filters will also often remove arsenic, barium, copper, lead and fluoride.

The upside to reverse osmosis is that it reduces more contaminants than the standard carbon filter. The downside is that it’s much more energy and water intensive, and you’re left with a concentrated brine that must be dumped.

The Environmental Working Group has this guide for finding the right water filter. Just punch in the type of filter you’re looking for and contaminants you want to remove. Most can be purchased online.

“You really have to do your research,” Short said. “Make sure your research shows that [the filter] is certified to reduce the things that you care about.”

For more information, and a more detailed breakdown of the problem areas, click here to find the source of the story at

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