'Erin Brockovich chemical' found in 31 cities

RIVERSIDE (CBS) — Researchers say tap water in Riverside has some of the highest levels in the nation of a known deadly toxin.

A new study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found hexavalent chromium — a carcinogen known as the “Erin Brockovich chemical” — in tap water from 31 out of 35 U.S. cities, with Riverside ranking as the third most-contaminated water supply, along with San Jose rounding out the top five.

The cities of Norman, Oklahoma, and Honolulu, Hawaii were ranked in the top two slots.

Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies hexavalent chromium (or chromium-6) as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” when consumed in drinking water, the agency has yet to establish federal guidelines for consumers, and does not require utilities to test for it.

In fact, California state standards currently exceed that of the EPA: the federal legal limit for “total chromium” — water polluted with hexavalent and other forms of the metal — is 1,700 times higher than California’s proposed limit, a disparity that may signal a larger-than-reported cancer risk for communities drinking chromium-tainted tap water.

The plight of communities affected by tainted water supplies was perhaps best illustrated in the 2000 film “Erin Brockovich” starring Julie Roberts, which was based on the story of cancer-stricken residents of Hinkley, Calif., who in 1996 won a $333 million settlement from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. for contaminating their tap water with hexavalent chromium.

EWG says a 2009 study of 48,000 communities in 48 states shows as many as 74 million people in nearly 7,000 communities across the U.S. drink tap water polluted with “total chromium.”

For the complete report, visit the EWG website.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

Comments (9)
  1. Amy says:

    Perfect example for all the narrow-minded people out there who say “I’m not going to waste my money on bottled water, I drink tap”…LOL. Idiots.

    1. bilboa says:

      Not always. Bottled water is supposed to be regulated, but goes unchecked for the most part, so guess what, You might be drinking tap water after all.

  2. supermonkey says:

    And they are still adding toxic Fluoride to the water on top of everything else.

  3. lol... says:

    Gotta love “idiots” that don’t know where bottled water comes from and pay more for it per gallon than gas. Any standard water filter works just fine to filter out the same thing the precious bottled water company does and doesn’t burn fossil fuel to create more plastic bottles that require more fossil fuel to truck around and to fill our landfills with toxic chemicals to haunt our children for generations to come, either. Now that’s something to LOL about!

    1. Duh! says:

      Almost all bottled water is tap water. You may get lucky and find a company that actually filters the water a little bit before bottling. All you have to do is read the label to see where the water is coming from.

      A few years back, there was a study that showed most bottled water contained higher levels of arsenic (a known poison and not a suspected carcinogen) than tap water.

  4. Mike says:

    Agree with “Amy” and “Supermonkey” – Bottled water would not be a multi-billion dollar industry if it wasn’t better in quality and taste. Simple concept to understand. And to the Caucasian writer (I know your Caucasian because they are always to ones whining about saving the environment) the oil industries are the ones who produce the majority of fossil fuel burning hence attack the major source.

    Ex-Arrowhead water employee – this water does NOT come from any well nor tap/municipal source (100% natural spring)

  5. Duh! says:

    There was a study that was recently released where number of cancer patients in Hinkley were not as high as one would expect with the Erin Brockovich chemical in the drinking water. In fact the cancer rate was the same for the rest of the population in untainted areas.

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