Tue, Dec 21, 2010 - Page 7 News List

US water has large amounts of likely carcinogen, environmental study says


A US environmental group has found that drinking water in 35 US cities contains hexavalent chromium, a probable carcinogen, the Washington Post reported on Sunday.

The study by the Environmental Working Group — the first nationwide analysis measuring the presence of the chemical in US water systems — was to be made public yesterday, the daily reported.

The group found hexavalent chromium in the tap water of 31 out of 35 cities sampled.

Of those, 25 had levels that exceeded the goal proposed in California, which has been trying aggressively to reduce the chemical in its water supply.

The Environmental Protection Agency is considering whether to set a limit for hexavalent chromium in tap water.

The federal agency is reviewing the chemical after the National Institutes of Health, deemed it a “probable carcinogen” in 2008.

Hexavalent chromium has long been known to cause lung cancer when inhaled and scientists recently found evidence that it causes cancer in laboratory animals when ingested.

It has been linked in animals to liver and kidney damage as well as leukemia, stomach cancer and other cancers.

A widely used industrial chemical until the early 1990s, hexavalent chromium is still used in some industries, such as in chrome plating and the manufacturing of plastics and dyes.

The chemical can also leach into groundwater from natural ores.

The chemical compound was first made famous in the hit 2000 Hollywood movie Erin Brockovich about the eponymous environmental crusader who also commented on the Environmental Working Group’s alarming finding.

“This chemical has been so widely used by so many industries across the US that this doesn’t surprise me,” said Brockovich, known for her fight on behalf of the residents of Hinkley, California, against Pacific Gas & Electric.

“Our municipal water supplies are in danger all over the US,” Brockovich told the Post. “This is a chemical that should be regulated.”

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