Health

Report: Utah Drinking Water Contains Known Carcinogen

| by Ray Brown
Dirty water pours from a bottleDirty water pours from a bottle

Utah's drinking water has high levels of a cancer-causing chemical, according to a report by the Environmental Working Group.

Chromium-6, or hexavalent chromium, the carcinogen made famous by safe water activist Erin Brockovich, was found throughout northern Utah water systems, according to the Standard-Examiner's report on the study.

“We would like to find out what it would take to clean up hexavalent chromium, so we can have an informed and reasonable discussion about whether we should invest in the filtration systems necessary,” said Dr. Brian Moench, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.

But it's not just Utah that has the dangerous chemical in its water.

The EWG found chromium-6 in almost 90 percent of the water systems sampled. The highest average samples were found in Oklahoma, Arizona and California. And Phoenix had the highest levels, with St. Louis and Houston coming close, according to the study.

Overall, more than 200 million Americans are affected.

“If a million people were to drink water with this level of chromium-6 for a lifetime of 70 years, we would theoretically expect one additional case of cancer,” said Sam Delson of California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, according to the Utah Standard News.

Moench said swift action is needed and the Environmental Protection Agency needs to quicken its pace.

“I don’t want to be drinking chromium, do you? There is a significant difference between the health goal and what the allowable standard is,” Moench told the Standard-Examiner. “If there is a fair amount of evidence, that should be our health goal. Anything else ought to be considered unacceptable.”

In Utah, the worry about chromium-6 in its water goes back to at least 2010 when the EWG found high levels of the chemical in 31 of 35 Utah cities' water supplies.

"The current regulation on chromium is completely outdated and EPA knows this," said Rebecca Sutton, an environmental chemist with EWG, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. 

Sources: Standard-Examiner, Salt Lake Tribune, Environmental Working Group / Photo credit: Ildar Sagdejev/Wikimedia Commons

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