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chromium

  • California's Underground Water Storage Plans Could be Risky

    Note: Yes, the black berkey filters that come standard with our berkey water filter systems do filter out and remove chromium 6 from the water. These berkey test results for chromium 6 can be found here.)

    With $2.5 billion allocated for water management projects within the state, California is considering alternative water storage options that will render the state more resilient to extreme droughts, which are expected to increase in the future with climate change. Many of the proposed new water storage solutions include underground storage as apposed to water storage in surface dams, which are more prone to water loss through evaporation.

    However, while having a diverse range of water management options is likely to help buffer the state from water losses during periods of prolonged drought, scientists at Stanford University are concerned about potential groundwater contamination from hazardous chemicals originating from both industrial and natural sources.

    Drought Affects on Folsom Lake, California Drought Affects on Folsom Lake, California

    Their biggest concern is chromium, which occurs naturally in rocks and soils, and depending on soil chemistry can be in one of two forms: 1) chromium-3, which is harmless; and 2) chromium-6, which is toxic and poses a risk to human health, causing symptoms such as throat-, nose-, eye- and skin irritations, and has also been linked to lung cancer.

    A new scientific study, which was recently published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, analyzed an extensive database of groundwater records, including water samples taken from drinking water wells, to map chromium hotspots around the state.

    While chromium does occur naturally, it is also released into soils by human activities. But, while people are becoming more aware of contamination from human sources — thanks to activists such as Erin Brockovich, who won a class action lawsuit she filed against Pacific Gas & Electric for chromium-6 contamination in 1993 — Scott Fendorf, a soil chemist at Stanford and co-author of the study, says "that's just not the only threat to groundwater. If you're thinking larger, the natural contaminants are really widespread," particularly in California, where the soil chemistry gives rise to chromium-rich rocks, he adds.

    Test Beaker Hand Agua Measure

    The researchers tested water from just under 16,000 wells spread across the state, and discovered that all of them had trace levels of chromium-6 present. However, some of the wells had chromium-6 present at levels that exceeded the maximum levels of 10 parts per billion recommended by the state as safe for drinking water.

    The sources of the chromium-6 contamination originates from several sources, including industrial (e.g. metal plating), agricultural (fertilizers), and natural sources.

    Chromium-6 is found in rocks located in areas where continental and oceanic plates meet, such as found in California along the San Andreas Fault where the North American Plate and the Pacific Plate come together. Serpentinite, with its distinct green coloration (indicating the presence of chromium-6), is a type of rock that is commonly found in these zones.

    But Fendorf believes that human activities can aggravate the formation of naturally occurring chromium-6. For example, applying chemicals to remove toxic industrial contaminants from soils — a cleanup method known as in-situ chemical oxidation — can transform the more benign chromium-3 into the much more hazardous chromium-6. According to Fendorf, over-extraction of water from underground aquifers for crop irrigation can also contribute to increased levels of chromium-6.

    "The water table is made of many stacked layers, alternating between sections of loose, wet gravel and sand and tightly-packed layers of fine clay," Fendorf explains. "The clay acts as a sponge with all this naturally chromium-rich dirty water in it," and when you starting overdrawing, you put pressure on the clays and start pushing dirty water into the main water that you're pumping out."

    While Fendorf's study shows that the more concentrated pockets of chromium contamination originate from industrial and agricultural sources, the impact of natural chromium affects a much wider area across the state and impacts a much larger proportion of drinking water sources.

    But even though chromium occurs throughout the state of California, neither state nor federal agencies have agreed on an acceptable safety level for the contaminant in drinking water. In 2014, California — which has historically recommended its own safety thresholds with regard to environmental regulations — set the maximum recommended safety level for chromium-6 in drinking water at 10 parts per billion due to potential risks associated with exposure. However, a 2017 court ruling suspended this recommendation as it failed to take the cost industries and agencies needed to incur to comply with these safety regulations into account.

    Currently, the EPA has set the safety threshold for chromium-6 at 100 parts per billion, while the states recommendations is half that amount at only 50 parts per billion. While they are currently revising these safety thresholds, you and your family may be exposed to dangerous levels of chromium-6 in your drinking water.

    Journal Reference

    Debra M. Hausladen, Annika Alexander-Ozinskas, Cynthia McClain & Scott Ferndorf. Hexavalent Chromium Sources and Distribution in California Groundwater. Environ. Sci. Technol., 2018, 52 (15), pp 8242–8251; DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b06627

  • 218 Million Americans Exposed to Dangerous Levels of Chromium-6 in Their Water & Berkey Will Remove It

    "There is scientific uncertainty regarding safe levels of this chemical in drinking water and possible long-term consequences of ingestion. But this new analysis from the Environmental Working Group, an independent advocacy group, examines evidence from water systems throughout the nation and concludes that the tap water of 218 million Americans contains levels of chromium-6 that the group considers dangerous." More details from CNN article here.

    Yes, the black berkey filters that come standard with our berkey systems do filter out and remove chromium 6 from the water.

    These berkey test results for chromium 6 can be found here.

    And don't forget, BigBerkeyWaterFilters.com is the only company to offer an exclusive extended lifetime warranty. More details here. This is not available from other sellers.

  • Chromium-6 Still Being Found In Drinking Water

    The Hollywood movie 'Erin Brockovich' starring Julia Roberts, brought home the reality of the effects of consuming water that has been contaminated with chromium-6 – a heavy metal that is believed to be carcinogenic to humans.

    (Side note: Yes, the black berkey filters that come standard with our berkey systems do filter out and remove chromium 6 from the water. These berkey test results for chromium 6 can be found here.)

     

    The film tells the story of cancer inflicted Hinkley residents, who sued Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) for damages arising from drinking water that they contaminated with chromium-6. In the 1950s and 60s, PG&E used chromium-6 to control algae and for rust-proofing its natural gas pumping station located 2 miles from the town of Hinkley. Water laced with chromium-6 was subsequently dumped into unlined settling ponds from where it leached into the groundwater that supplied the town's drinking water. This resulted in a contaminated plume of water that stretches 6 miles long by 2 miles wide, and is believed to be spreading further within the aquifer. In 1996 the residents of Hinkley won a $330 million settlement for illness and suffering caused from drinking chromium-6 contaminated water, and PG&E were forced to provide residents with solutions to ensure that they had a water supply that was safe to drink. To this end, PG&E has been providing residents of Hinkley, as well as the local school, with bottled water, and have equipped some households with whole house water purification systems to remove the chromium-6 from their drinking water.

    Erin Brockovich Erin Brockovich

    However, in a recent news report, PG&E has now been cited for supplying Hinkley households with bottled water that does not meet the standards stipulated by the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, who set the maximum concentration level for chromium-6 at 0.06 parts per billion. The water they supplied contained chromium-6 at concentration levels twice as high as those stipulated (water samples contained chromium-6 at levels of 0.11 parts per billion in August, and 0.14 parts per billion in September). While this is still significantly below the federal levels of 100 parts per billion set by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), individual states are able to set their own standards for drinking water, which override those set by the EPA and have to be complied with locally.

    California is the only state that requires that drinking water be tested for chromium-6. They do this for good reason, as the EPA is in the process of researching the long-term health effects of consuming chromium-6 in drinking water and possibly revising drinking water standards for chromium-6 once the study is completed.

    But it would appear that the Californian desert town of Hinkley is not an isolated case. A survey conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that 31 out of 35 US cities had tap water that contained chromium-6, with the city of Norman, Oklahoma containing the highest levels – as much as 12.9 parts per billion – followed by Honolulu, Hawaii at 2.00 parts per billion, and Riverside, California at 1.69 parts per billion. The water utilities that supply these 31 cities with drinking water collectively supply drinking water to 26 million people. The state of California conducts regular tests for chromium-6 in drinking water – where chromium-6 has been detected in the water supply that services 31 million people.

    The EWG reports that chromium-6 is widespread in American drinking water, with some 74 million Americans in 42 states being exposed to the pollutant. They are pressing the EPA to act swiftly to establish tighter controls for the allowable concentration levels of chromium-6 in drinking water to ensure the health and safety of American citizens.

    In the meantime, most water utilities do not test for chromium-6, so your drinking water may very well be contaminated. Americans can, however, take safety measures to limit their exposure. Some top quality drinking water filters, such as the Berkey fitted with Black Berkey filter elements are capable of filtering chromium-6 from your water and are an option for those concerned about this risk.

  • Congress Could Block New Drinking Water Regulations With REINS Act

    In 1993, a law office file clerk named Erin Brockovich began investigating illnesses in the town of Hinkley, California, which residents suspected were linked to drinking water contamination. In 1996, Brockovich's firm settled a lawsuit with Pacific Gas & Electric for contaminating the town's water with chromium-6 (hexavalent chromium). In 2000, a Julia Roberts film made Brockovich and Hinkley famous. In 2012, there are still no drinking water standards for chromium-6. If Congressional supporters of the recently-passed REINS Act get their way, there never will be.

    Widespread Chromium-6 Tap-Water Contamination

    According to the Environmental Working Group , "At least 74 million Americans in 42 states drink chromium-polluted tap water, much of it likely in the cancer-causing hexavalent form." Under EPA enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act, there is a limit on total chromium in the water. Given that chromium-3 is an important nutrient found in food and taken as a dietary supplement while chromium-6 is a carcinogen, many public health experts think a separate chromium-6 standard is warranted. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Toxicology Program, along with agencies in California, have spent years studying the scientific evidence about how much chromium-6 in drinking water it takes to increase cancer risk. The black berkey water filters that come standard with every berkey water filter remove total chromium levels by up to 95%.

    Multi-Year Scientific Review of Chromium-6 and Tap Water Safety by Agencies

    EPA put a draft scientific assessment of the health risks of chromium 6 out for peer review in 2010, taking comments from non-agency scientists throughout 2011 in order to better inform the regulatory process. This is exactly the kind of regulatory work state agencies want EPA to be doing because they don't have resources to evaluate each of the hundreds of chemicals that may be in our water. Yet, 241 members of Congress, most of whom have no formal science training, think that they should be the ones to decide how much chromium you drink.

    REINS Act Would Make Every Regulatory Decision Subject to Political Vote

    The Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act would, very simply, shut down the federal executive branch when it comes to new rules or regulations, whether on food safety, drinking water, health care, workers rights … How? If passed by the U.S. Senate and signed into law, the REINS Act would require any new regulation that might cost more than $100 million dollars in cumulative economic impact (meaning cost to anyone) get a majority vote in both houses of Congresses before it could go into effect. Any rule or regulation not voted on by Congress within 70 days of its finalization by its respective agency would not be implemented.

    With 50 to 100 regulations issued by federal agencies annually, the REINS Act could create a vote-scheduling nightmare. David Goldston of the Natural Resources Defense Council explains: "The bill could, in effect, impose a slow-motion government shutdown, and it would replace a process based on expertise, rationality and openness with one characterized by political maneuvering, economic clout and secrecy."

    Existing Checks & Balance System Makes REINS Act Unnecessary

    Ironically, Congress already has the power to block regulations coming out of EPA, FDA, USDA and all the other executive branch agencies, but not with a simple majority vote as they would under the REINS Act.

    In our three-branch system of government, the legislature passes the laws and the executive branch implements them. Numerous laws passed by Congress, including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act, specifically delegated detailed, science based regulations to the agencies. Subsequent Congresses were unhappy with some of those regulations and in 1996, Congress passed the Congressional Review Act, enabling a “resolution of disapproval" from both houses of Congress to override proposed regulations.

    However, because stopping a regulation under the Congressional Review Act requires a two-thirds majority in both houses to override the president, Congress has only managed this once since 1996, in 2001 to block ergonomics regulations out of the Department of Labor. The high hurdle for overriding regulations means an agency's decision must be truly misguided or genuinely opposed by the public for Congress to muster the political will to overturn it.

    REINS Act Would Create More Gridlock in Washington

    The REINS Act turns the regulatory review process on it's head, requiring members to rally political support for every single new regulation, no matter how carefully considered or scientifically sound. Considering how few of the top legistalative priorities of the most powerful members of Congress make it through the process, many political experts think the bill would bring Washington to a grinding halt.

    “The REINS Act would undermine our ability to protect children from harmful toys, prevent asthma and lung ailments resulting from pollution, and ensure that our small businesses can compete fairly in the marketplace. At the same time, it would force Congress to play a larger role in the regulatory process, leading to even more gridlock in Washington,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a statement.

    The good news is that, as a stand-alone bill, the REINS Act has little chance of being passed by the Senate and signed by the president. Unfortunately, it is exactly the kind of measure that members like to attach to must-pass spending bills so it's very likely that we see it again.

  • Health Risks of Chromium 6 in Drinking Water

    Many of us have seen the movie ‘Erin Brockovich’ with Julia Roberts, depicting the story of the residents of Hinkley village in California who won $333 million settlement from Pacific and Electric Co. in 1966. The company contaminated their tap water with chromium 6 (hexavalent chromium), which resulted in numerous cases of cancer.

    (Side note: Yes, the black berkey filters that come standard with our berkey systems do filter out and remove chromium 6 from the water. These berkey test results for chromium 6 can be found here.)

    High concentration of chromium in water was also recorded in Cameron (Missouri). The residents believed it was caused by contaminated fertilizer that was distributed to farmers for free. The contamination caused several cases of brain tumors in the town and the lawsuit is still on.

    Recent drinking water tests have shown that the problem of contaminated drinking water with chromium 6 is much more widespread. Laboratory tests carried out in 2009 have revealed the presence of chromium-6 in tap water in 31 out of 35 cities in the United States. The highest levels were recorded in Norman (Oklahoma), Honolulu (Hawaii) and Riverside (California).

    Chromium 6 (hexavalent chromium) is a highly toxic form of metal chromium that occurs naturally on the earth. Pulp and steel mills, leather-tanning facilities and metal-plating factories can pollute water with hexavalent chromium. Cooling towers disposed before 1990 can also contain the contaminant. Chromium 6 can also get into water through erosion of rock and soil. Chlorine, a commonly used solution for disinfecting tap water, can convert safe trivalent chromium into the harmful hexavalent form.

    Experiments carried out on animal models have shown that exposure to chromium 6 in drinking water may lead to anemia, damage to liver, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract and lymph nodes and teeth damage. It also increases significantly risks of gastrointestinal cancer. Present in high amounts, chromium 6 can cause birth defects, respiratory problems and infertility.

    Children and babies are particularly vulnerable as they are more sensitive to carcinogenic substances. People with less acidic stomach have difficulties transforming hexavalent chromium-6 into chromium-3 (nutrient form of chromium) and are therefore more exposed to the risk of cancer. Those suffering from mucolipidosis type IV, pancreatic tumors and some autoimmune diseases are also in the higher risk group.

    Despite the mounting evidence of chromium presence in drinking water resources and its harmful effects on human health, the problem has not been fully recognized by the state and federal regulatory bodies. Presently, California is the only state that requires water facilities testing for hexavalent chromium. The state officials set a target for chromium 6 at 0.02 part per billion (ppb) in order to prevent residents from the risk of cancer.

    In response to the growing public concern, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established a regulatory limit for total chromium to 100 ppb as a precautionary measure of protection against skin reactions or irritation (‘allergic dermatitis’). The total chromium includes both the essential for human health trivalent chromium (it regulates metabolism, insulin and blood sugar level) and the carcinogenic chromium 6. It is worth to mentioning that in the tested wells, the majority of the total chromium was in the hexavalent form not the beneficial trivalent chromium.

    According to some environmental watchdog organizations, the limit set by the EPA is too high and does not protect communities from exposure to chromium in their drinking water and against the risk of cancer. Recently, the US National Cancer Institute estimated that 41% of Americans will be diagnosed with a tumor during their lifetimes and 21% of them will die of cancer. In 2009 alone, about 1.5 million people were diagnosed. In face of such statistics, California health officials do not seem to be overprotective with their efforts to minimize the residents’ exposure to carcinogenic agents.

    To check if chromium has been recorded in your water tap you can contact your local water utility. If your water contains high level of chromium the best way to protect you and your family is to install a water filter tested to remove the contaminant.  The Berkey Water Filters will remove chromium 6 from tap water at levels greater than 99.9%. You can have peace of mind with the berkey water filter knowing that it is not only removing chromium 6 from your water, but many other contaminants including fluoride.

  • Chromium Water Contamination

    When you think of chromium or chrome, you probably think of the silvery shine on the bumper of a car (at least on the old ones.) However, chromium is used for much more than a coating, and when it gets into the water supply, it is potentially dangerous. Today, you can protect yourself from this heavy metal using a home water filter like the Big Berkey.

    (Side note: Yes, the black berkey filters that come standard with our berkey systems do filter out and remove chromium 6 from the water. These berkey test results for chromium 6 can be found here.)

    A quick chemistry lesson reveals that chromium combines readily with other elements to make chromium compounds as it can have a valance anywhere from -2 to +6. However, it usually combines with a valance of either +3 (as in CrCl3) or +6 (as in K2Cr04). The valance of an ion determines how it will combine with other elements and thus what compounds are formed.

    Chromium has been used in manufacturing in a variety of ways. Some examples include leather tanning, the manufacture of catalysts, paints, fungicides, glass and ceramics, in photography, as well as chrome plating. Most of us would be familiar with the lead chromate (PbCrO4) that was used on school buses due to it's bright color and the fact it did not fade in the sun. Because of environmental and health risks of the chromium VI compound, this paint has been replaced with less risky pigments.

    Though most of our intake of chromium is in the food we eat, nearly 10% can come from the water we drink. Chromium can get into the air in the form of aerosols but is easily removed via precipitation. Rainwater contains generally less than a microgram of chrome per liter, however groundwater can contain upwards of 2 micrograms of chromium per liter due to more exposure to contaminating sources.  For instance, near manufacturing plants, measurements of 40-80 micrograms/liter have been found contaminating the surrounding ground water sources.  The closer you live to manufacturing plants that may be using chromium, the higher the risk of exposure.

    It is certainly not true that chromium is all bad. In fact, Chromium (III) is an essential nutrient that helps the body use sugar, protein, and fat. An intake of 50–200 µg of chromium (III) per day is recommended for adults. If we don’t get that amount, it may result in weight loss or decreased growth, improper function of the nervous system, and a diabetic-like condition. Therefore, chromium (III) compounds have been used as dietary supplements and are beneficial if taken in recommended dosages. Excessive amounts of chromium (III), however, can be harmful to the body also.

    Other forms of chromium, especially chromium (VI) can be toxic. As Dr Robert Jackson, a holistic doctor states “Calcium chromate, chromium trioxide, lead chromate, strontium chromate, and zinc chromate are known human carcinogens. An increase in the incidence of lung cancer has been observed among workers in industries that produce chromate and manufacture pigments containing chromate.”  Other problems that have been found related to excessive intake of chromium include, renal failure (kidney failure), liver problems (elevated hepatic enzymes), thrombocytopenia (low blood platelets), hemolysis (breakdown of red blood cells), changes in thought processes, gastrointestinal disorders, chest pain, erythema/flushing/rash, dizziness, headache, agitation, and rhabdomyolysis (breakdown of muscle fibers that can lead to kidney damage).

    Chromium, like other heavy metals, may have other lasting negative effects on the health yet unknown to us. How much chromium VI are you ingesting daily?  Unfortunately many city quality reports do not provide the chromium levels, so it's hard to know. All of the Berkey Water Filters utilize the black berkey filters that remove 95% of  heavy metals, including chromium, from the water. Utilizing this berkey home water filter daily will ensure you are greatly reducing the amount of chromium that your body takes in.

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