Chromium 6, also known as hexavalent chromium, is a strong carcinogen that has been found to contaminate drinking water in many communities across the United States. According to the Environmental Working Group, there are currently 31 cities that have been polluted with hexavalent chromium nationwide. Because of this, many homeowners choose to purchase a water filter that will remove chromium 6 from their tap water. But the question begs – are the filters any good in dealing with chromium contamination?
Do water filters remove chromium 6?
Even though not all filters can remove chromium 6 from water, some do. Buy a water filter that is tested and verified to remove chromium 6 and your water will be safe for consumption. Reverse osmosis is the most effective method of filtering chromium 6 and other heavy metals from water so you may want to get an RO filter.
Here is a link to our detailed buying guide for the best water filters which you can use to remove chromium 6 from your drinking water.
How does water get contaminated with chromium 6?
Chromium 6 can get into your drinking water in two main ways:
- Through industrial processes
- Through the natural environment
Let’s look at each of these in more detail.
- Industrial process
The majority of the chromium 6 that we see in the water is a product of industrial processing. Chromium is used in many types of metal alloys, including stainless steel. It’s also used in glass production, certain types of paints and dyes, cement production, and pigment production. This type of chromium gets into the water supply through industrial runoff that carries it from factories to the water supply. It can also get into the water supply through accidental spills, such as the one that happened at a power plant in 2008 in Tennessee
- Chromium in the environment
The majority of chromium that we see in the environment is naturally occurring. The metal comes from rocks. When these rocks are broken down by weathering or by erosion, various elements come out – chromium being one of them. Chromium can naturally build up in soil and water supplies, particularly in areas where there’s a lot of erosion.
These natural deposits are not harmful to people or animals, but there are some specific areas where they may be a problem. This is true in waste disposal locations where there is a lot of erosion and little regulation of what can be deposited. Finally, there are certain areas that do have a high concentration of chromium deposits, like the Great Salt Lake in Utah or the Great Lakes in other parts of the United States.
It is these locations where they may cause problems for people and animals who drink or swim in the water. In fact, The United States Geological Survey estimates that there are about 10,000 metric tons of chromium 6 in the United States (0.3% of the world’s total chromium supply). The largest natural deposits are in South Africa, where more than 2 million tons of chromium 6 have been mined since the 1950s.
What are the health effects of Chromium 6?
Chromium 6, a chemical compound found in some types of water, has been linked to a few health effects. These include respiratory issues, cancer, and ulcers.
- Respiratory issues
While chromium-6 isn’t typically associated with respiratory ailments, a number of studies have found that it has a greater effect on the lungs than previous studies suggested. A study published by The National Center for Biotechnology Information found that workers exposed to airborne chromium-6 in stainless steel manufacturing plants that were subsequently exposed to diesel fumes experienced significant damage to their lungs, providing further evidence for occupational risks of chromium-6.
A growing body of scientific evidence, including recent research from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), links hexavalent chromium to a variety of cancers. A 2008 study by EWG found detectable levels of chromium-6 in the tap water supplies for more than 200 million Americans in all 50 states. More than 90 percent of samples collected by EWG exceeded 0.02 parts per billion the level California scientists have identified as potentially causing cancer (0.02 PBB) while no samples were below that level.
In addition to its cancerous health effects, chromium-6 has also been implicated in causing ulcers. in fact, studies show that absorption of chromium-6 via oral ingestion is usually considerably less than through inhalation or skin contact. Since there is ample evidence that links chromium-6 to gag-reflex and ulcerous gastritis, it’s easy to see why it’s considered a carcinogen and gastrointestinal irritant by the FDA.
Can you boil chromium 6 out of water?
Even though boiling is a great way of making water safe for drinking and food preparation, it is only effective in removing (by killing) disease causing pathogens from the water. Chromium 6 and other heavy metals cannot be boiled out of the water. The surest way of removing chromium6 from your water is by using a reverse osmosis filter (See our buying guide for more).
How To Test for Chromium 6?
A reliable way of testing for chromium 6 levels is to use a mass spectrometer, which can determine the concentration of chromium 6 in water samples.
The problem with using a mass spectrometer to test for chromium 6 is that it requires complicated procedures and very expensive equipment. The procedure involves combining solutions containing chromium 6 with sodium chloride and sodium hydroxide. The solution is then evaporated under a vacuum. The product is then dropped into a mass spectrometer and chromium 6 is analyzed.
The main challenge with this procedure, besides the fact that it is time-consuming and complicated, is that it cannot be used for home testing. It requires a large amount of time and money to buy all the necessary equipment and do the procedures. As at now, there are no proven methods to determine chromium concentration in water using home equipment. There are, however, proven methods for testing for chromium 6 presence in food and drinking water.
Most tests for chromium 6 use the Ames test, which involves exposing the sample to a direct beam of ultraviolet light. The result is an increase in fluorescence over the standard solution. However, a direct light source can damage the sample. A safer way to detect chromium 6 is to use infrared spectroscopy (IR) as a non-invasive method on uncooked samples.
But the easiest way to test for chromium 6 is to use Chromium test strips (Amazon link). Just dip the strip in your water sample and the reading will tell you if your water contains chromium 6.
To conclude, it is possible to remove chromium 6 contamination from water. If you use any of the water filters we have recommended in our buying guide, you will not only remove chromium but other heavy meals that would be exposing you and your family to diverse diseases as well.