An environmental group that analyzed the drinking water in 35 cities across the United States found that most contained hexavalent chromium, a chemical deemed a "probable carcinogen" by the National Toxicology Program, part of the National Institutes of Health.
The analysis, released Monday by the Environmental Working Group, is the first nationwide look at hexavalent chromium in drinking water to be made public. The advocacy group sampled tap water from U.S. cities and found hexavalent chromium in 31 of 35 cuities tested. Of those, 25 cities had levels that were higher than a health goal proposed last year by the state of California. The names of the cities are to be released in the published report.
Hexavalent chromium was brought into public awareness in "Erin Brockovich", a factually-based 2000 film where Julia Roberts starred as a faux lawyer who discovered the chemical in Hinkley, Calif. tap water. Hinkley accused Pacific Gas & Electric of leaking the chemical into groundwater for over 30 years. PG&E paid $333 million in damages in 1996 and vowed to clean up the contamination.
The government has not set a limit for hexavalent chromium in drinking water but is examining the chemical to decide whether it is in fact harmful to our health.
Hexavalent chromium was a commonly used industrial chemical until the early 1990s. It is still used in some industries today, such as chrome plating and the manufacturing of plastics and dyes. The chemical can leak into groundwater.
More details can be found on the Environmental Working Group site.