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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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