The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

EWG Public Affairs, (202) 667-6982

California Moves to Protect Public from Notorious Carcinogen

State acts just days after EWG report found widespread chromium-6 in U.S. drinking water


For years, California officials have been working to set the nation's
first-ever safety standard for the carcinogenic metal hexavalent
chromium (chromium-6), commonly found in the state's drinking water.
Last week (Dec. 31), after specifically evaluating the pollutant's
threat to infants, public health officials sharply lowered their
proposed "public health goal" to 0.02 parts per billion (ppb) of
chromium-6 in drinking water.

The decision is consistent with the position of the Environmental
Working Group (EWG) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC),
which had jointly urged California regulators to focus on the risk to
infants and other vulnerable groups.

"One day soon, as a result of this action, California's families
could find their drinking water with far less of this dangerous
carcinogen," said Ken Cook, EWG's president and co-founder. "Industry
influence has allowed this contaminant to remain in much of the state's
water for years, endangering millions, especially infants fed powdered
formula mixed with tap water."

According to a number of surveys, more than half of all infants born
in the U.S. are bottle-fed with formula, which often comes in powdered
form that must be reconstituted with water.

In November 2009, EWG and NRDC urged the California Environmental
Protection Agency's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment to
lower its original proposed public health goal of 0.06 ppb for
chromium-6 in drinking water. Once the goal has been determined, it will
become the basis for setting a mandatory limit.

"The proposal falls short in addressing the issue of sensitive
populations and ensuring their adequate protection," wrote Renee Sharp,
director of EWG's California office, and Gina Solomon, a senior
scientist with NRDC. Their letter can be found here:

Last month (Dec. 20, 2010), EWG released a study that found
chromium-6 in the tap water of 31 of 35 U.S. cities tested, including
three California communities. Two days later, following a closed-door
meeting with 10 U.S. senators concerned about EWG's report,
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson unveiled a
four-point plan to help local water utilities across the country test
for the contaminant and pledged to move quickly to set a nationwide
safety standard.

Praising EPA's prompt response, Cook added, "The Obama administration
should use California as a model and move quickly to give every state,
city and community in the nation the same safeguards against this
dangerous chemical."

The Environmental Working Group is a community 30 million strong, working to protect our environmental health by changing industry standards.

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