(Sheridan, Wyo) In September of last year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) examined water samples from counties across the nation, looking specifically for hexavalent chromium, or chromium 6. Chromium 6 is a proven carcinogen used in heavy industry. The EWG report concluded that 75% of Americans (that’s 218 million people) are exposed to dangerous levels of this chemical.
Sheridan County was one of the locations tested and appears on an interactive map of the results released by EWG. The Sheridan Dally did some digging to try and make sense of this complicated issue.
Here are three things you should know about chromium 6:
1: Hexavalent Chromium vs Trivalent Chromium
While chromium-6 contamination is usually the result of heavy industry, chromium-3 is naturally occurring and is an essential trace element in the human diet. The current EPA standards are for total chromium, including both types.
2: The EWG Report Uses California Standards
The EPA sets a total chromium Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 100 parts-per-billion (ppb). The state of California has adopted a level of .02 ppb, based on data related to birth defects and other health issues related to chromium-6 toxicity. The popular movie Erin Brokovich dramatized a legal battle regarding this very chemical. The California MCL is for Chromium-6, only.
3: You Can Filter Chromium-6 Out Of Your Water
Here are the results of the testing in Sheridan County. Experts warn that “large amounts” present in drinking water are definitely a reason to be worried. The question is what one considers to be a large amount. With such a large discrepancy between the standards for the EPA and those being used in studies such as this one from EWG, we are left to decide for ourselves.
If you are worried about your drinking water, the best option for home use is a reverse-osmosis filter which, in addition to chromium-6, removes arsenic, barium, copper, lead and fluoride.