What is Chromium-6?

Chromium-6, also known as hexavalent chromium, is a chemical derived from the element chromium. It is one of two forms of chromium naturally found in water. Its relative, chromium-3, is a nutritional necessity and can be found in food such as fruit, vegetables and yeast. On the other hand, chromium-6 comes from the environment through erosion of chromium deposits and industrial waste and is known to cause cancer.

If chromium-6 sounds familiar, that’s because it plays a major role in the film Erin Brockovich. The film, which is based on a true story, is about a woman who discovers a high concentration of chromium-6 in drinking water from industrial waste released by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) It ended in the largest settlement in a direct-action lawsuit ever in the United States and many would argue that it brought awareness to the harmful chemical.

Health Risks Caused by Chromium 6

Chromium-6 found in water is harmful in large amounts and causes numerous health effects. The most notable risk is cancer, but it can also cause asthma, respiratory illnesses and kidney and liver damage.

The Safe Water Drinking Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set regulations for substances such as this and in 1991, the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for chromium was set at 0.1mg/l. However, that includes chromium like chromium-3, which is harmless. In 2014, California enacted a strict regulation for chromium-6 with a maximum concentration level of 10 parts per billion, but a federal regulation has yet to be set for chromium-6. As a result, research from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that over 200 million Americans have drinking water at unsafe levels of the chemical.

Is Chromium 6 in Your Drinking Water?

Chromium-6, even in small amounts, can be in your drinking water for years, even long after it’s no longer added through natural or industrial processes. That means there’s a very good chance it’s in your drinking water.

While it may be within safe levels in some areas, you can find out if your local water contains chromium-6 by visiting our Water Quality Search, and entering your zip code.

Chromium 6 and Berkey

How to Remove Chromium 6 from Water

While it may seem bleak, there is hope. While most traditional water filters don’t remove chromium-6, the good news is that Berkey water filter systems remove more than 99.8% of Chromium-6 using Black Berkey filters.

The process, which uses ion exchange, starts with water going through the filter elements, which are made up of more than six different media types and billions of micropores (aka tiny holes). These holes are so small that harmful materials are unable to pass through. Next, the adsorption process keeps out harmful chemicals that are smaller than the pores. After that, harmful metals are attracted to the media using ion exchange. All of this is slowed using a gravity flow process, which gives the system time to filter out even more harmful contaminants. This process is unique to Berkey filters and makes us stand out above the competition.

You can also remove chromium-6 using reverse osmosis, which filters water by using a high-pressure pump to force water across a semipermeable membrane. While this process works to remove harmful contaminants in the water like chromium-6, it also removes good nutrients you need. That’s why ion exchange is recommended for filtering out chromium-6. The Berkey uses this process to keep beneficial nutrients in the water, which allows you to have nutritional, filtered water.

For more information on what else the Berkey water filter systems can filter, check out our Berkey test results.

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