While no city beats Norman, Oklahoma for shockingly high levels of carcinogenic hexavalent chromium in its tap water, both Los Angeles and Riverside have higher levels than California officials would like to see. With .20 and 1.69 parts per billion (ppb), LA and Riverside, respectively, don't even come close to the central Oklahoma city, which had a staggering 12.9 ppb. Still, the Southland's numbers are cause for concern.
The results of a study released today by the Environmental Working Group (and articles by media outlets like the Washington Post) should spur a swift response. According to the EWG, which commissioned the laboratory tests of tap water samples, drinking water in 25 of 35 tested cities contains levels of hexavalent chromium greater than the California goal of 0.06 ppb. So what's the big deal?
Citing its ties to high rates of gastrointestinal tumors in lab animals, hexavalent chromium (a.k.a. chromium-6 a.k.a. the villain in Erin Brockovich) has been labeled a “probable carcinogen” by the National Toxicology Program.
This September, the EPA found that hexavalent chromium in tap water is “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.” The agency is still deciding whether or not to set limits and/or require water suppliers to test for it.
Although, in 2009, California took steps to become the first state to establish a limit on its presence in tap water by proposing the 0.06 ppb limit, the figure represents a goal, not a regulation, for the Golden State. Let us drink tonight, for tomorrow we may die.