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By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Beware of Chromium 6

Posted 11/29/16 (Tue)

I recently watched an episode of the afternoon TV show “The Doctors.” They had a guest who was talking about Chromium 6 in the nation’s water supply.

Chromium 6 is best known as a rust inhibitor used for industrial applications and it’s also naturally  occurring. It doesn’t belong in our water supply, but it’s showing up, according to an Environmental Protection Agency report filed in September.

Nine counties in North Dakota have tested positive for Chromium 6, with Ward County having the highest concentration with an average test of 1.4 parts per billion.

Williams, Stark, Mercer, Morton, Burleigh, Stutsman, Cass and Grand Forks counties tested just under 1 part per billion. Rolette and Logan tested negative while all other counties weren’t tested.

The benchmark California Public Health goal is to get Chromium 6 down to .02 parts per billion.

Of particular interest regarding this are two counties in the United States that have grossly elevated levels of Chromium 6. Cleveland County, Oklahoma, which is immediately south of the major population center of Oklahoma City, has a level of just under 30 parts per billion.

The other, Merced County, California, although showing a lesser level of Chromium 6 at 11.4 parts per billion, is alarming because a lot of the nation’s vegetables are grown there.

Several other counties in California, including Mendocino, Fresno, San Joaquin, Napa and Sonoma counties, where everything from walnuts to wine are produced, all have elevated levels of Chromium 6 and all use irrigation in some capacity.

Three counties in the Arizona desert also have elevated levels. There are no counties in the eastern United States at high risk.

So far, there is no direct correlation between the Chromium 6 in drinking water and a transfer to growing plants. But don’t be surprised if that changes. Recent research has already found increased levels of thallium in California kale.

Thallium is an element that can poison you if taken in large amounts and if so can cause peripheral nerve damage and hair loss. Thallium can be radioactive, but isn’t known to be deadly.

However, Chromium 6 is considered a carcinogen and has been linked to lung cancer from people breathing particles with Chromium 6 in them.

It has also been said to cause developmental disabilities in children, but reports regarding that are inconclusive.

Chromium, which comes in several chemical forms, has been considered a carcinogen by Proposition 65 since 1987. It is listed as  also causing developmental and reproductive toxicity.

Proposition 65 is a list of all known chemicals that was created by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.

It has sometimes come under scrutiny for listing certain chemicals as dangerous, however, each year new chemicals are added to the list and each year people become more interested in that list.

The North Dakota Department of Health mandates that cities across the state test their water supplies and have them published in their local newspaper.

Few, if any alarms have gone off regarding this and rightfully so because 44 counties either didn’t have Chromium 6 in their water supplies, or they weren’t tested by EPA.

Perhaps every county should test for it and publish the results. Who would have thought that Ward County would have elevated levels?

It’s also interesting to note that counties with seven of the eight largest cities in North Dakota, were tested and have at least some level of Chromium 6 in their water supplies.

Still, another red flag comes up because most farms still have their own water wells. Many have switched over to rural water carriers but the greater percentage of farm families still draw their drinking water from a well on the family farm or very nearby.

Remote wells don’t get tested as often as city or regional supplies will, but they should.

For years the water supplies in many communities across the state have had some level of arsenic, most often under the threshold of causing human harm, but nonetheless present in the North Dakota water supply.

Chromium 6 should be treated the same way as arsenic once was. Even though it isn’t putting the public in danger, at least not now, it’s in the water supply and we have to wonder how it got there?