5 Things Houston Residents Need To Know About Chromium 6 In Drinking Water
Eric Roy, Ph.D. | Scientific Founder
Since a local news story broke about high levels of chromium 6 (also known as hexavalent chromium) in Houston's tap water (which serves about 2.2 million people), we've been getting a lot of questions about chromium 6. The goal of this Houston water contamination article is to speak to the science, comment on the current federal regulations, and to give Houston residents practical advice on how to reduce their exposure to Chromium 6.
Why Should I Care About Chromium 6 In Drinking Water?
Chromium 6 is a highly toxic form of chromium that is known to cause cancer in humans. It contaminates drinking water supplies through wastewater discharge from industries including: steel production, leather tanning, textile manufacturing, wood preservation, and electroplating. In more popular culture, it was the chemical made famous by Erin Brockovich, whose story was made into a movie starring Julia Roberts. To be clear, chromium 6 is NOT the same thing as chromium 3 (also known as trivalent chromium)
How High Are Chromium 6 Levels In Houston's Tap Water?
Houston's tap water chromium 6 levels are very high, 3rd highest of major US cities, behind only Phoenix and St. Louis. The 3 year average for Houston's drinking water supply is just under 750 parts per trillion, peaking at 6500 parts per trillion. To put it in perspective, these levels are roughly 35-300 times higher than the 20 part per trillion concentration established using criteria widely cited by scientists and doctors for negligible risk.
Is Houston In Violation Of Federal Regulations?
Even though it is a known carcinogen, the US EPA does not currently regulate chromium 6. Instead, EPA lumps highly toxic chromium 6 into the same category as chromium 3 (a form of chromium that is an essential dietary nutrient). Because chromium 6 is unregulated, water contaminated with high levels is considered "compliant" with federal regulations. This is absurd.
Are These High Levels Due To A Recent Temporary Spike In Chromium 6?
No. The local and nationwide stories are shining a light on a longstanding and ignored problem.
How Can Houston Residents Reduce Their Exposure To Chromium 6?
The only way to remove the chromium 6 from Houston's drinking water is to filter it out with a water filter that is designed to remove chromium 6 or reverse osmosis. Boiling or freezing water does not remove chromium 6.
As always, we encourage people to take advantage of our "Help No Matter What" approach to technical support. Our water quality experts will help you solve your problem, even if you have no intention of buying a Hydroviv Water Filter for your home.
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Source Of Houston Drinking Water
Houston receives its drinking water from three water purification plants and 40 ground water plants. 16 additional groundwater plants provide for the remaining 5 Houston Water Systems.
Arsenic Concentrations In Houston Drinking Water
Arsenic is a toxic heavy metal that is known to cause cancer and other health issues. Unlike lead, which distributes into water from plumbing, arsenic comes from the source water itself. While Houston is in compliance with very loose EPA water quality standards, Houston's most recent tap water quality report listed an average arsenic concentration of 2 parts per billion. These levels triggered the municipality to make the following disclosure in the Consumer Confidence Report:
"Houston’s drinking water contains low levels of arsenic, but is below the state and federal action levels. EPA’s standard balances arsenic’s possible health effects against the costs of removing it from drinking water. EPA continues to research the health effects of low levels of arsenic, which is a mineral known to cause cancer in humans at high concentrations and is linked to other health effects such as skin damage and circulatory problems."
Hydroviv strongly recommends that anyone that lives in an area with more than 1 part per billion take steps to remove arsenic from their water, especially families with children.
Lead Levels In Houston Drinking Water
Lead enters tap water through older lead service pipes and lead-containing plumbing. When lead pipes, fittings, and valves are present in a home, lead can leach into the drinking water, and can reach dangerous levels. In the most recent data provided by the City of Houston , 10% of samples analyzed for lead in Houston are 4 parts per billion. Though the city is currently in compliance with extremely loose federal regulations, the EPA and CDC have both acknowledged that there is no safe level of lead for children. Additionally, the American Academy Of Pediatrics strongly urges any tap that produces water over 1 part per billion to be remediated immediately.
Very High Chromium 6 Levels In Houston Drinking Water
Chromium 6 is an extremely toxic metal that is not currently regulated by the EPA. In recent years, Houston tap water has averaged 700 parts per trillion for Chromium 6. For the sake of perspective, these levels are 35 times higher than the concentration determined to have negligible impact on cancer risk. Earlier this year, Dr. Eric Roy (Hydroviv's Founder) wrote a highly-cited article specifically on the high levels of chromium 6 in Houston's tap water, the original source can be viewed here.
Pesticides And Petroleum Hydrocarbons Detected In Houston's Most Recent Round Of Testing
Low levels of the herbicides atrazine and simazine (both endocrine disruptors), as well as xylenes (a petroleum based VOC) were reported in Houston's main system. This isn't a huge surprise because of the types of activities
Disinfection Byproducts (DBPs) In Houston Drinking Water
DBPs are a category of emerging contaminants that form when chlorine-based disinfectants react with naturally-occurring organic matter. Although these chemicals are not currently regulated very well, the EPA's website discloses that exposure to high levels of these chemicals is associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer, as well as kidney, liver, and central nervous system problems.
Chlorine Levels In Houston Tap Water
Like most other cities in the U.S., Houston disinfects its water with chlorine to protect against waterborne illness. While not considered to be harmful on its own at levels found in tap water, people tend to find that filtering it from their water greatly enhances its taste and odor.
Still Have Questions About Houston Tap Water Or Water Quality In General?
Hydroviv is a water filtration company that uses tap water quality data to optimize water filters for each customer's water. The contaminants that we list above are what we consider to be major “points of emphasis” that we use to build water filters that are built specifically for Houston, but our filters provide broad protection against a wide range of contaminants found in Houston's tap water.
If you’re interested in learning more about water filters that have been optimized for Houston's water, or have questions about our Houston water quality report, feel free to visit www.hydroviv.com, reach out by email (email@example.com) or through our live chat. We also frequently post water-related news on Twitter or Facebook. We pride ourselves in being a reputable source of information on tap water quality, and your questions will be answered by scientists, not salespeople (we don't have any salespeople on staff).
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