Erin Brockovich brought chromium-6 to fame when she railed against a power company that had been polluting the water in Hinkley, California. Ms. Brockovich put water pollution under the spotlight 25 years ago, and yet, in spite of all that she accomplished, chromium-6 is still being found in water supplies nationwide.
Almost three decades have passed since Ms. Brockovich first brought the toxicity of hexavalent chromium to light. A recent analysis of federal data led by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), has made some shocking discoveries about the prevalence of this toxin in the water supply. The data was gathered across the country via drinking water tests, and shows that the compound has infiltrated water supplies in all 50 states. This contaminated water is used and consumed by more than 200 million Americans.
Federal regulation of hexavalent chromium has been stalled for quite some time now. The EWG notes that “a chemical industry challenge … could mean no national regulation” will be developed at all, in spite of the evidence that it causes cancer.
This “standoff” is only the latest hurdle in the fight for stricter regulations to protect people from a cancer-causing toxin. Scientists and activists are calling for stringent regulations to be based on the actual potential for harm (as they should be). Conversely, those more concerned about the industry’s well-being want more lax regulatory practices, citing concerns over the “cost and feasibility of cleanup.” Why try to clean up the mess if its going to cost money, right? Who cares about the millions of innocent people that are hurt? Not big business, and not the government.
The EWG reports that if the industry gets their way, “it will also extend the Environmental Protection Agency’s record, since the 1996 landmark amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act, of failing to use its authority to set a national tap water safety standard for any previously unregulated chemical.”
In 2013, PR Watch reported that a chemical lobbyist organization, known as the American Chemistry Council (ACC), convinced the EPA to hold off on announcing the findings of their chromium-6 investigation, and somehow managed to also succeed in promising to pay for further research. Industry-funded research is always just so reliable; that’s how cancer-causing toxins have made their way into every aspect of our lives.
It’s worth noting that the ACC was previously known as the Manufacturing Chemists’ Association, and is a top organization for American chemical manufacturers. The agency represents close to 150 companies nationwide. According to OpenSecrets.org, the ACC spent more than $12 million on lobbying expenses in 2013.
Their ability to persuade the EPA to do their bidding makes more sense now, doesn’t it?
In 2010, scientists from the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment concluded that consumption of even tiny amounts of chromium-6 can cause cancer in humans. Their conclusion was affirmed by state scientists in both New Jersey and North Carolina. California is presently the only state to have set any kind of regulation for chromium-6, and even their regulations are not what they should be.
You can bet that the federal government will not be doing anything about this, anytime soon.