chemical element

What Are Chromium-6 and Chromium-3?

Chromium-6 and chromium-3 are ionic variants of Chromium. Chromium is an element with an atomic number of 24 and symbol Cr. Chromium is a transition metal, grey in hue and lustrous in appearance. Chromium is extremely brittle and has many common compounds. The name chromium is derived from the Greek word chrōma, which translates to “color.” Many compounds of chromium have vivid colors like aqua green and fuschia.

Chromium metal is utilized for many manufacturing and construction purposes because it is extremely resistant to corrosion. Adding metallic chromium to steel forms stainless steel, making steel nearly impervious to discoloration and corrosion. Chrome plating and stainless steel account for nearly 85% of the commercial uses of chromium.

Chromium is the 22nd most common element found in the Earth’s crust. Chromium occurs naturally in minerals, the soil, plant life, volcanos, and in animals. Chromium in its natural metallic state is not considered toxic, and neither are some ionic forms of chromium. However, some ions, especially chromium-6, pose an immediate threat to human health.

What Is Chromium-6?

Chromium-6, also known as hexavalent chromium, is a toxic ion of chromium. Chromium-6 can occur naturally in the environment as existing chromium deposits in the soil erode. Chromium-6 is also created in a variety of industrial processes.

Chromium-6 was made famous by the real life lawsuit lead by Erin Brockovich and the subsequent film adaptation about the high-profile case. The original lawsuit was filed against Pacific Gas & Electric, a utility that was introducing chromium-6, known to be a dangerous carcinogen, into local water supplies.

Chromium-6 can be released into the atmosphere or into water supplies due to inadequate industrial waste disposal or leakage from a storage facility. Chromium-6 can contaminate groundwater, surface water, and the soil surrounding industrial facilities when the wastewater released from these facilities is not properly treated, according to MiningWatch Canada.

The current drinking water standard for chromium levels as set by the Environmental Protection Agency is 0.1 mg/L, or 100 parts per billion. The EPA has stated that the agency may revise or adjust the maximum contaminant level of chromium once further information has been reviewed, but the agency has not acted on making chromium regulations more strict in over a decade.

Scientific organizations like the Environmental Working Group are outraged that the regulations for chromium-6 levels in drinking water are not more strict, as chromium-6 is proven to cause cancer even in miniscule amounts. The primary tension is between corporate industrial concerns and concerns of human health: chromium cleanup is an expensive process, and many industrial organizations do not want to lose profits and spend more time guaranteeing that chromium-6 doesn’t make its way into your water supply.

In California, scientists have set a public health goal for the levels of chromium in drinking water to not exceed 0.02 parts per billion, which is 500 times smaller than the current target amount set by the EPA. The scientists of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment claim that this amount is the only safe amount of chromium that can be consumed over a lifetime and not increase one’s risk for developing cancer.

What Is Chromium-3?

Chromium-3 is another ionic variant of chromium, and it is not considered very toxic and is not carcinogenic. Chromium-3 is an essential element dietary element, necessary to metabolise glucose, protein, and fat. Chromium-3 exists in trace amounts in many grains, vegetables, fruits, and meats.

Most industrial sources of chromium (often chromium-3) that get into the atmosphere are those related to the production of ferrochrome. Chromium found in the atmosphere is often the more stable chromium-3, and comes from: the lining of automobile brakes, leather tanneries, chrome pigments, cement-producing plants, chemical processing, and ore refining.

What Is the Difference Between Chromium-6 and Chromium-3?

Both chromium-6 and chromium-3 are ions of chromium. Chromium-3 is more stable than chromium-6, and chromium-6 will often reduce to chromium-3 in typical environmental conditions. If ingested by humans chromium-6 will reduce to chromium-3 and other forms of chromium. During this process its byproducts poison the body and its systems.

Chromium-3 is much, much less toxic than chromium-6. Whenever you consider chromium as a drinking water contaminant the primary issue is the chromium-6 content. Nearly all of the chromium-6 you will drink is manmade, produced in industrial and manufacturing processes.

Is Chromium-6 Found in Bottled Water?

Depending on the source of the water many bottled water brands may contain chromium-6. In fact, because bottled water is not held to the same testing standards as public drinking water the chromium levels may be much higher in bottled water compared to your tap water.

If you do decide to consume bottled water seek out a brand that provides extensive water quality information. If the packaging or supplemental information indicates that the bottled water contains less than 0.06 parts per billion of chromium then you can drink that bottled water until you implement a permanent solution for the tap water in your home.

Instead of buying bottled water and contributing to plastic waste filter the tap water in your own home to safely consume water without high levels of chromium.

Health Effects of Chromium

Chromium, especially chromium-6, is shown to have many terrible health consequences even in minimal amounts.

Inhaling chromium-6 in the atmosphere can cause lung cancer. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration strictly regulates the amount of chromium-6 in the air in facilities that use chromium in industrial processes because of the compound’s known carcinogenic capabilities.

In 2008 the National Toxicology Program verified that chromium causes cancer in laboratory mice when ingested, even in extremely small quantities. According to the EPA inhaling small amounts of chromium-6 will cause wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath.

Dermal exposure to chromium-6 causes skin burns and contact dermatitis in humans. Chromium can also damage the neurological and gastrointestinal systems in the body. In both laboratory mice and humans chromium has been documented to cause vomiting, abdominal pain, and hemorrhaging.

Inhaling chromium-6 can cause ulcerations of the septum, asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, decreased pulmonary function, and nasal soreness. Chronic ingestion of or exposure to chromium-6 can cause permanent damage of your liver, kidneys, and immune system. The EPA also notes that exposure to chromium-6 can cause developmental issues during pregnancy and can jeopardize childbirth.

Individuals with less acidic stomachs are even more susceptible to the dangerous effects of chromium-6. With less stomach acid these individuals cannot naturally reduce chromium-6 to chromium-3 as effectively as others, leaving them vulnerable to the toxic nature of chromium-6 and further increasing their risk for developing cancer after ingesting chromium.

How to Test Your Water for Chromium

Environmental Working Group published a massive study in 2016 that revealed dangerous levels of chromium-6 in the drinking water of over 200 million Americans. The entire report is worth reading: you can find it here.

Over 6,000 water samples from the EPA itself were analyzed in the extensive report from the EWG. The high levels of chromium-6 still present in the water could lead to over 12,000 new cases of cancer, according to the group. Cities in which the amount of chromium-6 was particularly high include Houston, Phoenix, and St. Louis.

In addition to the study the EWG published an interactive map that collates all of the samples that they tested. Use the map to see if your county’s public water supplies contain high levels of Chromium-6. This is an easy online tool you can use as a first step.

Especially if you find that your county of residence has high levels of chromium-6 you should test your water at home right away. Chromium-6 is more likely to exist in high concentrations in water supplies that are near manufacturing and industrial sites that utilize chromium compounds in their processes.

If you believe the drinking water in your home may contain chromium-6 the best course of action is to conduct a water test at home. There are many options available for water testing in your home. Pelican Water carries various types of testing kits based on your budget and needs.

You don’t need to spend a fortune to determine your current chromium-6 levels. The WaterCheck 32 Test is the most affordable water test that will measure the amount of chromium-6 (as chromium) in your drinking water, along with 31 other common contaminants.

Once your water test arrives, follow these instructions:

  1. Carefully read the packaging to guarantee a valid sample.
  2. Follow the instructions provided to gather a water sample for testing.
  3. Using FedEx or UPS Overnight Saver, return your kit with the sample to the testing laboratory location indicated in the instructions. Note: return shipping is not included.
  4. The lab will process the results of your water test within 7 to 10 days of receiving your kit.
  5. Read your results once they have been mailed back to you.

After reading your water quality analysis report it’s best to contact the lab that conducted the testing if you have any questions. If you are still having trouble determining the concentration of chromium-6 in your drinking water contact Pelican Water directly.

Test your water for chromium today - buy a water test kit from Pelican Water.


How to Remove Chromium-6 and Chromium-3 From Water

Unlike other contaminants and chemicals homeowners cannot typically remove chromium from their water by locating and removing the source. With nitrates, for example, you may be able to fix a malfunctioning septic tank or make structural improvements to your well in order to remove the contaminant.

However, with chromium, the best method of reducing the contaminant is to install a water filter if your water is affected. Removing chromium from your water is a complex chemical process. Some contaminants can be eliminated or reduced by boiling water, but this is not the case with chromium-6. In addition, chromium-6 is odorless and tasteless, meaning you will not be able to recognize its presence in your drinking water.

Best Chromium Water Filters

Keep in mind that the EPA standards for chromium-6 are being contested by members of the scientific community. If you detect even slight amounts of chromium in your drinking water you should invest in the following filtration systems to avoid the consequences of ingesting too much chromium:

FreshPoint Reverse Osmosis 5-Stage - Reverse osmosis water systems are designed to reduce many harmful chemicals and contaminants to deliver better tasting drinking water to your tap. Our FreshPoint Reverse Osmosis systems reduces fluoride, cysts, arsenic, lead, turbidity, copper, chromium, and several other common contaminants found in drinking water. Pentair FreshPoint Reverse Osmosis Systems deliver worry-free water in a snap.

Check your water today for high levels of chromium, especially if you live in in a county with previously recorded levels of chromium that exceed federal standards according to the interactive map from EWG. If you have any questions about our products or about protecting your family from the harmful effects of chromium-6 contact a Pelican Water specialist today.

Disclaimer: The information on this website has not been reviewed by the FDA. Products offered for sale herein are not intended to treat, cure or prevent any disease or health condition. No medical claims are being made or implied. Contaminants mentioned are not necessarily in your water.