'Erin Brockovich' chemical taints tap water of 251 million Americans


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'Erin Brockovich' chemical taints tap water of 251 million Americans

Updated March 2022

Chromium-6 is the cancer-causing chemical made notorious by the film “Erin Brockovich,” which documented how the chemical contaminated drinking water in Hinkley, Calif. Chromium-6 gets into drinking water through pollution from industrial uses and from hazardous waste sites, but it also occurs naturally in some areas. Among other uses, it serves as a coolant at electrical power stations.

In 2008, the National Toxicology Program, or NTP, found that water contaminated with chromium-6 causes cancer in laboratory animals. In 2010, California scientists published a health protective level of 0.02 parts per billion, or ppb, for chromium-6 in drinking water. This value is five thousand times lower than the national legal limit for total chromium in drinking water of 100 ppb. Total chromium includes chromium-6 and trivalent chromium. 

Despite the NTP’s findings and California’s move to set a much stricter health protective level, there is no national standard for chromium-6 in drinking water. The Environmental Protection Agency’s health safety review of the chemical has been stalled for over a decade by the industries responsible for chromium-6 contamination.


Chromium-6 water system average
> 10 ppb
>5 - 10 ppb
>1 - 5 ppb
>0.02 - 1 ppb
≤0.02 ppb

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