What You Need to Know About Chromium-6

Dec 15 , 2022

What You Need to Know About Chromium-6

In our mission to bring clean, filtered water to our customers, we’ve seen a variety of contaminants here at King Water Filtration. However, you may have recently heard about chromium-6, another heavy metal. Feeling out of the loop? Don’t worry – if you have questions, we’ve got answers.

What Is Chromium-6? And Why Is it in My Water?

Before we go on, let’s take a moment to meet chromium, #24 on the periodic table. It’s a tasteless, odorless, metallic element known best for its high resistance to corrosion and lustrous qualities. Because it resists rust so well, it’s often used in the creation of steel and other industrial processes. The name may be familiar because it’s where we get chrome from.

In our environment, there are two chromium by-products that we commonly interact with. The first is chromium three, or trivalent chromium. This form of chromium is not toxic. In fact, it helps with the body’s production and metabolism of insulin and can be found in some meats, fruits, whole grains and vegetables, to name a few. It’s even possible to have a chromium deficiency, which is why it’s recommended as an essential nutrient.

But hexavalent chromium, or chromium-6, is much more harmful. Chromium-6 can occur naturally in small deposits, but it’s more commonly found as a toxic by-product of industrial processes like leather tanning and the creation of stainless steel. Exposure can occur during these processes, and from these exposures, chromium-6 can enter the water cycle and eventually wind up in the water supply nearby. And because it has no taste or smell, it’s invisible to the naked eye and requires chemical testing to detect.

How Does Chromium-6 Affect the Body?

When exposed to even low levels of chromium-6, people can develop nosebleeds, stomach ulcers and skin rashes. In the long-term, though, the effects worsen: Chromium-6 has been identified as a carcinogenic material, causing organ damage and multiple types of cancer.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve seen the effects of chromium-6 on the national stage. Hexavalent chromium was the contaminant at the center of the lawsuit filed by Erin Brockovich, which saw $333 million awarded to the plaintiffs whose local groundwater had been polluted by their utility company’s negligence. Sadly, the problem is ongoing: Recently, the Environmental Working Group found that over 250 million Americans had been exposed to chromium-6 far above recommended levels.

How Can You Protect Against Chromium-6?

The best thing you can do to ensure that your water is not contaminated with chromium-6 is to make sure that your municipal water is filtered. If you are concerned, you can test your water to ensure that your chromium-6 level isn’t too high. Water departments do test for chromium-6, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that water contain less than 100 parts per billion (ppb) of chromium, both versions included. Anything higher than 100 ppb is not safe. However, since these standards were set in 1991, they may be ripe for re-evaluation 31 years later.

On a macro level, you can inform your friends and family about the dangers of chromium-6 and advocate for its standards to be re-evaluated by the EPA. If you have reason to believe that your water has been contaminated by chromium-6, you can reach out to your local water department for help. If you’re already a King Water customer, you may be treating this issue and not even know it: Some of our systems are already formulated to remove heavy metalslike chromium-6 from your home’s water.

Chromium-6 is just one of many contaminants that threaten to pollute our water. But with education, prevention and filtration, you can keep your water clean of chemicals, minerals and other substances that would threaten your water supply. If you’d like to learn more about how King Water Filtration can help, contact us at 855-957-2166 or through our online page.