A couple weeks ago, EWG broke the news that hexavalent chromium (aka the “Erin Brockovich chemical”) was present in the water of hundreds of millions of Americans. Otherwise known as chromium-6, there are no safe levels of this carcinogenic chemical, but there is a lot of confusion around what an acceptable level might be.
Even the terminology can be confusing–I am no math whiz, and struggled to make sense of parts-per-billion vs. micrograms-per-liter as I sifted through the research and scary news articles.
Of course, after seeing Erin Brockovich when I was in college, I sort of assumed that the chromium-6 problem had been cleared up decades ago. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.
What You Need to Know About Hexavalent Chromium (Chromium-6)
So here’s the bottom line on this toxin:
- Chromium-6 is really bad stuff–a well-established carcinogen.
- California has set a maximum legal level of 10 micrograms per liter of chromium-6 (this translates to roughly ten part per billion (10ppb)). This California level is the most stringent anywhere, but they’ve set the more ambitious public health goal of .02ppb. The EPA, by the way, lacks a specific limit for chromium-6, but has set a standard of 100ppb for all forms of chromium.
- Some level of chromium-6 may be in the drinking water of two-thirds of Americans. While this is the news grabbing headlines, it’s worth noting that only 2 percent of Americans’ drinking water contains levels above 10ppb, which is still some seven million people. (You can check your area here.)
- We should all be filtering our water for chromium-6, as well as many other toxins, such as chlorine, lead, pharmaceuticals, and more. (Here’s how to choose the right filter.)
Does Your Filter Remove Chromium-6?
We’ve been getting lots of emails and calls from those of you who have purchased water filter systems through our store. You’re understandably worried about chromium-6, and wondering if your filter is useful against chromium-6.
Good news: The KDF/GAC filters in our store indeed capture chromium hexavalent. Whew!
The testing data shows that when water passes through our filter system, the chromium-6 is reduced by at least 90 percent. In my case, this means that my New York City water, which is estimated to contain .04ppb of chromium-6, should be reduced down to .004ppb.
When water spiked with high levels of chromium-6 goes through these filters, those levels drop to exactly the same level as the California law requires. This is great, but I was happy to discover that the testing is done on filters that have already filtered 20,000 gallons of water. In other words, because we recommend that those filters be replaced after about 5,000 gallons (every year or two), the filters that were tested should have been discarded years ago, but were still functioning very well, even with large amounts of chromium-6 dumped into them. This means that if you live in an area already below California’s legal limit for chromium-6 (as 98 percent of you do), and if you replace your filter every year or so, your exposure to chromium-6 via your drinking water should be negligible–at least 90 percent lower than the unfiltered water in your area.
If you are using a different water filter, you should definitely contact the manufacturer to be sure it is reducing the chromium-6 level down to 10 micrograms per liter or less, and ideally down below .02ppb.
Please feel free to post any questions below.