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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

EPA Administrator Briefs Senators on Chromium-6

Lisa Jackson
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson briefed a bipartisan group of senators in December after a report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that Washington and 31 other cities have elevated levels of chromium-6, a probable carcinogen, in their public drinking water.

Attending the meeting: Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and Democratic Senators Bob Casey (Pa.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) and Jeff Bingaman (N.M.).

Chromium-6, also known as hexavalent chromium, is used in the production of stainless steel and other alloys. It gained attention as a probable carcinogen in the film “Erin Brockovich."

EPA is in the process of re-evaluating at what level chromium-6 should be regulated. EPA does not have a limit for chromium-6 but restricts all chromium content to 100 parts per billion in tap water to protect people from skin rashes. But that limit includes chromium-3, which is relatively safe compared to chromium-6. EPA will coordinate peer-reviewed studies of chromium-6 contamination by the end of summer 2011. The current federal standard, which was set in 1992, fails to distinguish between chromium-3 (trivalent chromium) and the more toxic chromium-6 (hexavalent chromium).

California’s EPA has set a “public health goal,” or maximum safe concentration, of 0.06 parts per billion. The EWG found Washington, DC and Bethesda, Maryland had 0.19 part per billion of chromium-6 in drinking water — more than three time as much as determined safe by California environmental officials. Honolulu, Hawaii, was found to have 2 parts per billion of chromium-6 in its water, several times more than Washington. The study found chromium-6 in concentrations of 0.18 parts per billion in Chicago’s tap water. (The Hill, 12/21/2010)

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