Why should you worry about something called ‘hexavalent chromium’ in my water? Simple: It can cause health problems. Studies have shown that people who have ingested hexavalent chromium in water have higher incident rates of stomach and intestinal damage that can, in some cases, result in various forms of cancer.
How would a heavy metal like hexavalent chromium get into my drinking water?
An article on the EPA’s web site states, “The most common forms of chromium that occur in natural waters in the environment are chromium-3 and chromium-6. Chromium-3 and chromium-6 occur naturally in the environment, and are present in water from the erosion of chromium deposits found in rocks and soils. Chromium-6 is also produced by industrial processes and manufacturing activities including discharges from steel and pulp mills among others. At many locations, chromium compounds have been released to the environment via leakage, poor storage, or improper disposal practices.” ( source )
Another source states, “Hexavalent chromium is a metal used in industrial processes such as chrome plating (which puts a shiny, anti-corrosive finish on wheels or plumbing fixtures, for example), steel production, metal working, tanning, paint and pigment manufacturing, glassmaking and cement manufacturing. Until recently, chromium compounds, including hex chrome, were widely used as a wood preservative in pressure-treated wood.” ( source )
So, can hexavalent chromium get into your water supply? Given the number of potential sources around most of us, the possibility certainly exists.
Testing for hexavalent chromium?
While only laboratory testing by a certified water testing laboratory can tell you for sure if and/or how much dissolved hexavalent chromium your water contains, you can perform simple water tests at home that can let you know if you should consider getting your water tested by a certified water testing laboratory.
The WaterWorks Chromium in Water Test Strips accurately detect the presence of chromium-6 (hexavalent chromium) in concentrations as low as 0.1 ppm (the level set by the EPA as an enforceable limit in drinking water) and as high as 50 ppm in water samples.