Most people know that it's good for you to drink water. Staying properly hydrated can significantly affect your brain function and energy levels, help maximize your physical performance, and so much more.
However, what happens when your drinking water has substances in it that can be harmful to your health?
One such substance is known as chromium 6 or hexavalent chromium. This metallic element can be found in the tap water of American households across the country even though it is known to have negative health effects.
What are the risks of chromium-6 and what can you do to limit exposure? Let's take a look at everything you need to know.
What Is Chromium-6?
Chromium-6, also known as hexavalent chromium, is one form of the naturally occurring metallic element known as chromium. This element can be found in plants, animals, rocks, soil, and volcanic gases and dust. There are a number of different types of chromium, another of which is known as chromium-3 or trivalent chromium and is considered an essential nutrient.
How Is Chromium-6 Used?
Hexavalent chromium is used along with other chromium compounds in a number of different industries. These include:
- Stainless steel production
- Textile manufacturing
- Leather tanning
- Wood preservation
The United States is actually one of the leading producers of chromium in the entire world.
How Are People Exposed to Hexavalent Chromium?
People can become exposed to hexavalent chromium through direct contact with the skin, ingesting it in water or food, or breathing it in.
Chromium-6 appears to be much more toxic than chromium-3 and tends to be corrosive and irritating.
This powerful oxidizing agent is thought to be able to pass through cell membranes, which might be the reason it is much more toxic than its chromium-3 counterpart.
What Does the Research Say About Chromium-6 in Drinking Water?
When humans inhale hexavalent chromium compounds it can cause lung cancer.
This type of chromium is listed on the Report of Carcinogens which documents known human carcinogens.
Consistently, studies have shown that workers who were exposed to high levels of chromium in the air at work had increased lung cancer rates.
There are a number of different occupations where people are likely exposed to more chromium than the general population. These jobs include:
- People who cut or weld metals that contain chromium, for example, stainless steel
- Workers who handle spray paints, chromate-containing pigments, or coatings
- Workers who operate chrome plating baths
Other adverse effects that can occur from exposure to hexavalent chromium include:
- Eye irritation and damage
- Nasal and skin ulceration and irritation
- Liver and kidney damage
- Sinus and nasal cancers
What are the health effects of drinking chromium-6 in water, though?
One of the acute effects of chromium ingestion includes gastrointestinal effects in both humans and animals, including vomiting, abdominal pain, and hemorrhage.
Chronic exposure to high levels of chromium-6 by oral exposure or inhalation may produce negative effects on the:
- gastrointestinal system
- immune system
Mouse studies that looked at oral exposure to chromium-6 found that a number of reproductive and developmental issues resulted. These include:
- Reduced sperm count
- Decreased litter size
- Degeneration of the seminiferous tubules' outer cellular layer
Studies from the National Toxicology Program found that oral ingestion of sodium dichromate dihydrate, which contains chromium-6, caused cancer in laboratory animals. They also found that the tumor growth in these lab animals were growing at sites that were unusual and rare.
According to a PBS News Hour report, chromium-6 in drinking water can cause pneumonia, skin burns, stomach cancer, and complications during childbirth even in small amounts.
A report from the Environmental Working Group found that two-thirds of the drinking water of all Americans have higher than recommended levels in their tap water.
However, there is no federal standard when it comes to the maximum amount of chromium-6.
Where Is Chromium-6 in the Water Supply of the Biggest Concern?
According to the report from the Environmental Working Group, California, Arizona, and Oklahoma have the highest statewide averages of this compound.
The highest amount in any city was found in Phoenix, which was followed by St. Louis and Houston.
This report found the carcinogen in the tap water of 200 million Americans.
Though the cities listed above had the highest amounts in the country, the report found that every water system that serves more than 1 million people in the country has amounts of chromium-6 that could be dangerous.
In fact, they found that this chemical that has been linked to cancer is in 89% of the cities that they sampled.
Conducted in 2010, this investigation was the broadest publicly available survey of the presence of hexavalent chromium in U.S. water supplies up until that point.
At this time, California is the only state that has a standard for a maximum amount of chromium-6 that can be in the drinking water.
The Famous Chromium-6 Case in Hinkley, CA
One famous case that involved water contaminated with Chromium-6 was the subject of the 2000 film Erin Brockovich.
This case involved the town of Hinkley, California where the drinking water was alleged contaminated by a nearby facility.
Between the years of 1952 and 1966, Pacific Gas & Electric tried to fight corrosion in a cooling tower system by using chromium-6.
The wastewater from this facility was discharged into ponds at the site that was unlined. Some of this then got into the groundwater and impacted an area of roughly two square miles near this plant.
During this 12 year period, PG&E dumped a total of 370 million gallons of wastewater that was tainted with chromium.
It wasn't until December of 1987 that the company informed the local water board of the chromium contamination that occurred decades earlier.
A class-action lawsuit was filed against PG&E which came to the attention of Erin Brockovich in 1993.
She then investigated what appeared to be a cluster of illnesses that could be linked to chromium-6 in the Hinkley community.
This led to the largest settlement of a class-action lawsuit in the history of the U.S., amounting to $333 million.
How Can You Prevent Exposure to Chromium-6?
The best way to prevent exposure to chromium-6 in your drinking water is to purchase a filter that can remove the chemical from your tap water.
The most effective of this type of filter is an ion exchange water treatment unit such as a Berkey water filter. This same technique of ion exchange is used to treat the drinking water in Hinkley, CA by PG&E.
This type of technology relies on tiny beads of gelatinous resin that is packed into columns.
When the contaminated water flows through the treatment unit, the ions of chromium-6 cling to the beads of resin and are therefore removed from the water.
This exact same technology is also very effective for removing both manganese and arsenic.
It's worth understanding, however, that metals can build up in filters over time. This can lead to a reduction in its effectiveness.
For this reason, it's important to replace filters regularly and to monitor and maintain the unit.
Another option is a reverse osmosis filter which can also remove a number of contaminants including chromium-6.
You can also work with your pubic health officials to find out if chromium-6 is present in the soil, air, and water of your region and at what concentration.
This is particularly important if you live somewhere near to where these compounds are manufactured or disposed of.
If chromium has been discarded in any uncontrolled hazardous waste sites near where you live, you certainly won't want your children playing near to them.
It is also ideal to limit your occupational exposure to chromium compounds.
There is a standard for hexavalent chromium that has been established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
This intends to help protect employees from the risk of exposure, which includes dermatitis, skin ulcers, and lung cancer.
Does a Berkey Water Filter Remove Chromium-6?
Yes, the Berkey removes chromium-6 from your drinking water. That's not all, though. It also removes:
- Pathogenic bacteria
- Petroleum contaminants
- Heavy metals
- Coliform and e-coli
- Gross alpha emitters
These chemicals and microorganisms are removed at levels between 97% and 99.9%.
One of the incredible things about Berkey filters is that they can purify and treat water that has been sourced from raw and untreated water bodies.
This means that you can take water from stagnant ponds, rivers, and lakes and make it potable and clean.
How Can You Filter Water For a Large Family?
If you have a medium to large family, you will want to look at the Royal Berkey filter. Perfect for outdoor activities, home use, emergencies, and travel, this unit can hold up to 3.25 gallons of purified water.
The Big Berkey filter is perfect for between one and four people.
Storing 2.25 gallons, this is the best option for small or medium-sized families as well as people who are doing outdoor activities, traveling, or to be used in an emergency situation.
How Can You Make Sure You're Drinking Clean Water When You're on the Go?
Okay, so you got yourself with a Berkey water filter at home.
This is great, as it ensures that your health and wellbeing aren't negatively impacted by your drinking water while also helping you rest easier at night.
However, you aren't home all the time. What are you supposed to do about contaminants in drinking water when you aren't at home?
Never fear. This is where the Travel Berkey comes in.
This smaller gravity water filter allows you to filter water when you're on the move rather than requiring that you lug all of your clean water around with you wherever you're going.
This travel filter weighs only about seven pounds, making it perfect for outdoor activities, camping trips, and vacations overseas.
This filter can provide 2.75 gallons of filtered water every hour, meaning that any water source can be turned into drinking water in no time at all.
While able to accommodate up to six people, the Royal Berkey is still amazingly portable.
What Are the Benefits of Owning a Berkey Filter?
There are a lot of good reasons to incorporate Berkey water filter systems into your lifestyle.
For one, when you have a Berkey it means that you can have the purest, healthiest water available at all times.
On top of that, many of the Berkey water filter systems are quite portable, meaning that you don't have to relegate healthy water just to your own home.
Berkey water filters are also designed to filter out all harmful contaminants while leaving healthy minerals in the water.
This means that you get the best of both worlds: you don't lose the good stuff but you get rid of everything that could harm your health!
Is It Time For You to Get a Water Filter System?
You want the water that your family drinks every day to be nourishing, not toxic.
When you can't trust that the water coming out of the tap does more harm than good, it's time to come up with a different solution.
When you invest in Berkey water filter systems, you are investing in the health and wellbeing of your family.
Berkey water filters can filter out chromium-6 in addition to a long list of other disease-causing microorganisms and chemicals.
Is it time for you to take a stand and demand that your family drinks clean, healthy water? If so, take your health into your own hands with our Berkey water filter systems.