What Can You Do About Chromium-6?

The Environmental Working Group released an explosive report on Tuesday that conveys a shocking truth for over 200 million Americans. The carcinogenic chemical chromium-6 (also referred to as hexavalent chromium), which was made infamous during the 1990’s due to Erin Brockovich and the lawsuit against Pacific Gas & Electric, is present in water quality samples across the nation.

Their article is very well-written, so I’m going to let it speak for itself. Click to read EWG’s report, which explains everything you need to know about chromium-6.

Contained within their article is an interactive map, which allows you to zoom in as far as the city/county level to see what was detected in the systems in your area. It’ll even tell you where samples were collected from.

My current FL county (Duval) had 3 out of 5 water systems come back positive (4 samples of 136 tested positive). In my specific water grid, only 2 of 104 samples came back positive.

I found that the Ohio county I grew up in, Cuyahoga County, which houses the city of Cleveland, tested 6 systems – all came back positive for chromium-6. Across the county, 47 of 52 samples tested positive, in varying levels.

screenshot-2016-09-22-11-20-27

(FYI – If you try this, and do not see your city system listed, it’s not to be taken as it testing negative. It means they were not included in the test.)

An important thing to note, is that the “standard” you see listed above as the California Public Health Goal of 0.02 parts per billion (ppb) is not a law. It is, as the name suggests, a goal that would “pose negligible risk over a lifetime of consumption.” In other words, it would drastically lower, but not eliminate, cancer risk. Levels of 0.02 ppb or less are not to be taken as “totally safe,” rather “safer.” The only thing 100% safe is 0.00 ppb.

There are several really shocking cases across the U.S. Take a look at this graphic from EWG that shows appalling numbers coming out of Phoenix, AZ, and St. Louis County, MO. I have a family member in Kansas City who was understandably shocked by this news.

ewg_chrome6_table_c02-2

As you can imagine, the cities most affected by this report are tripping over themselves to explain away the findings and restore confidence. Take a look at this article posted on cleveland.com and this article posted by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which quotes a Director of Public Health as responding, “The drinking water is perfectly fine.”

Filtration Options

Now, I agree that most people don’t need to run screaming from their tap (though those in Phoenix or St. Louis County are a different matter). But, this brings water quality issues into stark focus. The ongoing situation in Flint, MI was one of the first harbingers of the water quality issues more U.S. cities are going to face.

I’m an advocate for filtering your water, no matter where you live – do not drink straight tap water! However, this business with chromium-6 changes the ballgame and forces us to look beyond the well-known filtering options.

The question in everyone’s mind is: “What can I do to protect myself?” I’ve seen a bunch of people commenting, “This is why I drink bottled water,” but note that bottled water isn’t a guarantee of safety (I’ll get to that in a minute), nor is it the most economical or environmental option.

In the FAQ section of their article, EWG addresses the question of filtration:

screenshot-2016-09-22-11-48-50

So, if you’re already using a water filter, what does that mean? I recommend you visit your product’s website and contact the manufacturer if you’re not sure, but it seems that most sources agree that carbon’s abilities are limited against inorganics like chromium-6. It’s possible they may have some effect, but not much.

Now, if you’ve read my earlier post about chlorine safety, you know that I used to use a Brita filter for our drinking water, but because our water here is so hard and excessively chlorinated (think pool water), Brita couldn’t keep up.

Per Brita’s website, you can see that faucet mount filters are among their most thorough products, though even those are not claimed to reduce chromium-6.

screenshot-2016-09-22-11-55-14

I know Pur filters more contaminants, because we have a faucet mount (model FM-3700B) on our kitchen faucet (for washing produce and quick water fill-ups) and the data sheet is super impressive – reduces 70+ contaminants! But what about chromium-6? Per their website, here is the full list of contaminants reduced, but chromium-6 is not one of them.

pur-chart

So, I decided to check out EWG’s handy water filtration guide, which lets you search by the type of filtration unit you want and the contaminant you want to remove.

Right now, the only low-cost filters EWG lists for reducing chromium-6 are ones made by ZeroWater. Even though the picture on EWG’s guide only lists one model, in fact, there are 10 models certified by NSF for chromium-6 reduction. (It’s the only pitcher filter certified as such, as seen in searching their database.)

Here are the 10 ZeroWater models certified by NSF for reducing chromium-6:

  • ZD-010RP
  • ZD-012RP
  • ZD-013D
  • ZD-013W
  • ZD-018
  • ZD-023-1
  • ZP-001
  • ZP-006
  • ZP-010
  • ZS-008

Reverse Osmosis is Key

As you may be able to see in the pic above (or if you visit EWG’s guide), the only other products listed are reverse osmosis (RO) undersink or whole-home filtration systems. RO is a process known as one of the most effective (along with distillation) against water contaminants, including fluoride (which ordinary carbon filters do not remove either).

Now, getting an RO unit isn’t in the budget for everyone, nor is it a possibility for those (like myself) who rent. I can tell you I certainly plan to invest in one whenever we own a home. If you can get one, you should, and not just in light of chromium-6.

About Bottled Water

As I mentioned earlier, many people have said that they drink only bottled water, so they say they’re fine. The truth? It depends.

Buyer beware – just because your bottled water has a picture of a nature scene, it doesn’t mean it’s from a spring! Many bottled water brands use municipal water sources, though it still goes through a purification process (which varies company to company). Without turning this into a bottled water exposé, just realize you have to look into the source and processes used for your bottled water. Many people don’t realize that you can go to a company’s website and look around for info on their process, and seek a “Quality Report” or “Water Analysis Report” link.

Let’s take, for example, Zephyrhills 100% Natural Spring Water (which is sourced from five Florida springs). After deciding our Brita wasn’t cutting it, for a short time, we were buying new Zephyrhills 3-liter bottles from Walmart each week, which was a terrible waste of plastic and a waste at $1 each. (I’ll come back to what we’re now doing in a sec.)

On Zephyrhills’ website, I viewed the water report:

screenshot-2016-09-22-13-50-11

As you can see, seven lines down, total chromium is listed (which would include chromium-6 as well as other less-dangerous forms of chromium). As you follow that across the column, you see that the test results show “ND” (meaning “Non-Detect”).

Because Zephyrhills is now part of the Nestle Waters family, I headed to Nestle’s website to view their process, which you can see here if you’d like. Step 3 in the process is demineralization by reverse osmosis or distillation, either of which would remove compounds like chromium-6 (and fluoride, for that matter).

Digging around some other non-Nestle brands of water, like Dasani and Aquafina, I found their water quality reports, and also saw ND for chromium. Both companies get their water from municipal water sources, though they do use reverse osmosis in their purification processes too.

As you can imagine, though, if a shady bottled water company is using municipal sources and not using RO or distillation, your bottled water is at risk of having chromium-6 in it.

Water Refills, Dispensers, & Home Delivery Options

Okay, even though I just finished saying that, yes, depending on the purification processes used, some bottled water may in fact be free of chromium-6, don’t take that as me advocating you buying four 24-packs of bottled water a week. Please don’t do that.

Single-use bottled water is pretty darn expensive, since you’re paying for all that packaging, and certainly way less environmentally-friendly than other options. I mentioned earlier that I would come back to explain what we’ve been doing lately, so here we go.

We’ve kept (and sanitize) seven of our Zephyrhills 3-liter bottles, and we refill them during our weekly shopping trip at the fill-your-own Primo kiosks (seen in the pic below, on the right).

If you’re not familiar with Primo, they offer two options for their water, refill and exchange, which you can read more about here.

screenshot-2016-09-22-14-36-36

Please note that the refill stations do use municipal water sources, which is then filtered through the machine: through a sediment filter, a carbon filter, reverse osmosis, then treatment with UV light. The refill station can be used with a jug or container of your choosing.

Filling seven 3-liter jugs (equivalent to 5.5 gallons) costs us $2.73 a week, and is enough for both my husband and myself. We use this water for drinking and cooking (including boiling pasta and making tea).

The second option, seen on the left in the pic above, is the bottle exchange. For this, you must have a dispenser tower that holds a 3- or 5-gallon jug. You bring jugs back empty, receive an exchange ticket, and use that as a credit for purchasing a new jug. Read more here.

The filled jugs used for this exchange come sealed, directly from Primo’s purification plants. Here, too, the water is from municipal sources, and undergoes a 9-step process that includes reverse osmosis or distillation (depending on the plant). [Update 11/2016: Primo used to provide access to their water quality report on their website, but it’s no longer available on their redesigned site.]

We eventually want to get a dispenser tower and start doing the Primo exchange, but it looks a bit more expensive. Cost probably will vary by store, but each 5-gallon jug is $11.50 at our Walmart, I believe. (Keep in mind, that’s face value before you cash in the exchange voucher, but I haven’t verified how much credit you get – I’ve heard $5, making a jug $6.50 if so. As I said above, we get 5.5 gal for $2.73 doing the refill method.)

Check here to see if a store near you offers a Primo refill station or exchange station.

Another option you can look into is home delivery, though that is the most costly and (in my mind) too much of a hassle to deal with worrying about your water being delivered and sitting outside when you’re not home. I prefer to not get involved in “subscription plans” either, but that’s me.

But, if you want, check out Zephyrhills delivery – as I mentioned before, it’s spring water, not municipally-sourced, and would be treated using RO just like the Zephyrhills water sold in smaller bottles.


Well, I hope that helps! With this news breaking, I know there are a lot of upset people. I’ve spent more time than the average bear looking into drinking water options ever since we moved to Florida and our tap water has been awful, so I wanted to share some realistic solutions.

Please feel free to hit me up in the comments if you have questions. It’s possible I may have come across the answer in my research and can help out.

Wishing you healthier, happier days!

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7 thoughts on “What Can You Do About Chromium-6?

  1. Thanks for doing all that research and sharing your findings here! I’m sure it was a time consuming job.

    One of the things that I don’t think you mention that adds a further consideration to the issue of ending up w/ the safest water is that filtering systems, according to my research, actually change the structure of water. Even sending water through pipes changes its natural structure and so it’s not as easily assimilated by the body as water in its pristine state. That’s why the best option, although available to very few people, is to get water from an unpolluted natural spring. There are several companies that are starting to realize the importance of structured water and are even adding a step after the filtering process that supposedly re-structures the water.

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    1. Thank you! Yep, researching and crafting some of these bad boys can be a bit of an undertaking (especially the more info-meaty ones like this), but what can I say? I love it. My degree is in English with a minor in PR, and for a time I planned to go into journalism, so it’s kind of in my blood!

      To your point about water filtration, I can say that, yes, I’ve come across articles (which may or may not be ones you were referring to) that discuss the topic of RO and excess mineral removal, in relation to the human body’s need for minerals. I admittedly haven’t delved into it deeply, partly because I think we at some point have to be careful how crazy we drive ourselves in this game of healthy, healthier, & healthiest.

      My goal is to write for readers in all stages of their healthy journey. In this case especially, this news went viral fast, and it’s touching such a huge cross-section of people. Many people hearing about chromium-6 are very new to the idea that tap water isn’t safe. Even people who are used to filtering their water have been taken aback (especially to find out that their current filter of choice may not be effective against chromium-6).

      That being the case, I tried to be especially mindful with this post to not overwhelm or frustrate people. My goal was to share realistic, affordable means for anyone looking to avoid chromium-6, and help ease the blow a little. I’m sure the topic of the science of water, filtration, and our bodies is very hefty, and giving it the discussion it deserves would’ve been overkill here, in this post dedicated just to chromium-6 avoidance. (I’m definitely not saying that there isn’t value in discussing such topics, just that this wasn’t necessarily the time or place for doing that.)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Amen, I hear ya. It’s almost like the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. And, yes, it can certainly be not only overwhelming, but also more than a little scary to start finding out about all this stuff happening w/ our water and food supplies.

        p.s. My comment about structured water didn’t have to do w/ mineral content, although that is an issue w/ RO, but w/ the structure of water molecules.

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      2. BTW, after taking all the time you did to research and put together your post, I especially appreciate that you still took the time to give such a thoughtful, well-articulated response to my original comment.

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  2. Ladies, you are BOTH exceptionally bright AND kind! I’m a “mature” woman animal rescuer and professional VO actor/ Author/ TV &Radio Producer who lives on 5 deliciously undeveloped acres just 2 miles from Joshua Tree National Monument. The skies and air are magnificent, thus I am not leaving, but filtration has become an immediate concern, of course. Do either of you have any more info, perhaps not shared at the time you wrote here? Feel free to be in touch via FB or at KatePorter888@gmail.com. Also, I am willing to be a part of any media effort where my skills might be needed to educate or inspire as this Chromium 6 issue evolves. Bless you both for caring! Kate

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    1. Hi Kate,
      Thanks for the kind words! 🙂

      Unfortunately, no, I really don’t have any further update since the time that I posted. It seems, like always, that it’s been swept under the rug because it’s just not a pressing enough issue.

      (I mean, look at Flint. Their issue is so, so serious, yet it’s just disappeared from the media even though the situation is ongoing. Although, I heard that about $120 million in funding finally got approved. The fact that it’s taken this long and that the amount is so low is shameful – there’s no way $120 mil can fix that. Nor compensate the victims and aid their medical bills for lead poisoning. Sigh.)

      I actually just saw this article today, which is utterly terrifying: http://www.alternet.org/environment/more-1000-communities-nationwide-face-four-times-lead-poisoning-flint

      I personally believe this is just the tip of the iceberg. I’d be willing to bet that 50-75% of communities across the U.S. have way higher lead levels than they should. Then you factor in things like chromium-6, and other pollutants (plus the fact that cities intentionally add fluoride and chlorine), and it’s enough to make you want to cry.

      Coming back to chromium-6, the thing that really gets me is that the presence of chromium-6 isn’t new information. At all. Cities have known about chromium-6 levels for ages. In fact, if you follow this link, this brings up all the hits on ewg.org for chromium-6 (they’re the organization who posted the huge report that I based my blog post of off).

      http://www.ewg.org/search/site/chromium-6

      You can see that EWG has been writing about it for years prior to their major report breaking. I saw some hits that were dated as far back as 2010. Most lay people had never heard of chromium-6 prior to it making news this year, following EWG’s report. (Or, some had heard of it because of the movie Erin Brockovich, but never had a clue it was in everyone’s water.)

      But cities know. Governments know. It’s just not enough of a concern to them. When EWG’s report broke, and people all started getting alarmed, the cities all rushed to reassure the people that everything was fine, calm down, keep drinking the water. And, not surprisingly, the vast majority of people just accepted that reassurance, and went back to life as scheduled. It’s totally forgotten in most minds.

      The sad thing is, even if enough people continued to raise hell over it, the government simply doesn’t have the funding or a way to remedy the problem. I mean, really, when I think about it, I ask myself, “If money were no object, how would the government go about cleaning the drinking water of every city in the U.S.?” Because, in truth, our drinking water comes from so many sources that are, themselves, horribly polluted. It’s mind boggling, really.

      Now, without getting super political, when I say that the government doesn’t “have” the funding, well, it’s kind of a matter of priorities. We “have” money for billions in war spending, but drinking water? That’s not important. We only need water to survive, hey. #endrant

      I’m no water technician, but I believe that to truly rectify the situation, we would have to complete re-think the way we treat our water. Our current systems might need to be either nixed completely, or altered drastically.

      I think the sad reality is that we’ve dug ourselves one heck of a hole, which grows deeper by the second, since government refuses to impose strict enough standards on sources of pollution. Couple that with our aging infrastructure, and it’s a recipe for utter disaster.

      I realize that everything I just wrote sounds horribly gloom and doom. I usually try not to be so negative, but I think this situation is one that’s been living “under the rug” for so long that eventually the rug won’t contain it any more. The rug will slip off, and we as a country are going to be faced with a very, very bleak reality that can no longer be ignored if we wish to survive.

      That’s why, above all, it’s so important for us to protect ourselves and our families in the here and now. Some people are content sticking their heads in the sand and pooh-poohing stuff like this, because they still trust government. They think that our water couldn’t possibly be unsafe. Or that anything unsafe in the water is at such low concentrations that it couldn’t possibly hurt us. At this point, that’s a very dangerous judgment call to make! I try to do what I can by spreading the word however I can, so at least I feel like I’m doing something! And kudos to you too, for being aware and engaged!

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