The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kirsten Stade [PEER] (202) 265-7337;
Serena Ingre [NRDC] (703) 296-0702;
Andria Ventura [Clean Water Action] (415) 215-7299

California to Set First Hex Chromium Drinking Water Level

Public Health Advocates Urge Adoption of Safe Standard Found by Science Agency


Hexavalent chromium (hex chrome), the notorious cancer-causing
chemical made famous in the film Erin Brockovich, contaminates drinking
water in over 500 California communities, according to environmental
and public health experts. The California Environmental Protection
Agency is taking public comment through today on a proposed level for
hex chrome in drinking water.

Although the state was required
to set an enforceable standard by 2004, it is now five years past that
deadline. In August, the Cal/EPA EPA's Office of Environmental Health
Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) released a draft "Public Health Goal" for hex
chrome in drinking water that needs to be finalized after today's
hearing so that an enforceable drinking water standard can be set to
protect the millions of Californians living with contaminated water.

the serious health impacts of hex chrome, there is no federal drinking
water standard for it. When finalized, California will be the first
state in the nation to set a drinking water standard for this dangerous
substance once again leading the nation in protecting the public from a
dangerous chemical.

Following are statements by California environmental and public health advocates:

Erin Brockovich:

chrome is a serious problem and one that I'm glad to see being
addressed. California has always led the way in setting standards that
other states indeed follow. We need to create more awareness and make
prevention the goal to protect people. Hex chrome is a widespread
problem and not just limited to California nor to the community of
Hinkley, as featured in the film, but communities all over the country
have been poisoned by hex chrome."

Senator Deborah Ortiz, author of the bill to establish a drinking water standard for hex chrome:

passed the law to set a safe drinking water standard for hex chrome by
2004. Five years later, Californians continue to be exposed to unsafe
levels of hex chrome in drinking water. Communities across California
have the right to a safe public health goal and we ask the Office of
Environmental Health Hazard Assessment to honor that law."

Zoe Kelman, Director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER):

2001, California's efforts to protect public health from hex chrome
were hijacked by industry but OEHHA scientists were persistent. Thanks
to them, we have an impeccable study that provides the country with the
basis for regulating chromium in drinking water to protect the health
of children, workers and the public at large."

Gina Solomon, MD, MPH, Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council:

"Hex chrome has been clearly shown to cause cancer, as well as other
serious health effects including liver and kidney damage and harm to
the reproductive system and developing fetus. Cal/EPA must finalize a
public health goal for chromium in drinking water quickly in order to
protect Californians from this dangerous substance."

Virginia Madueno, Clean Water Action organizer from an impacted community in Riverbank, CA:

a community water advocate and a mother living in an impacted
neighborhood, I live every day with the uncertainty of what the
chromium in my tap water is doing to my family and my neighbors. Any
delay in finalizing this public health goal will continue to compromise
the health and safety of my children, and that is simply unacceptable."

Renee Sharp, Director of the Environmental Working Group's California office:

bad news is that 30 million Californians in more than 500 communities
around the state are being exposed to a potent carcinogen through their
drinking water. The good news is that attempted industry corruption of
the process did not prevail and the state is finally one step closer to
addressing this serious public health concern."

Read the hex chrome fact sheet

View the OEHHA draft drinking water standard

Look at disturbing new risk assessment on hex chrome

See attempt to muzzle scientists to control hex chrome work

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.