In 1999, after the Hinkley case, California set a water guideline, called a Public Health Goal, of 2.5 ppb. Hinkley’s ground water contained concentrations as high as 580 parts per billion, more than 10 times California’s current drinking water standard of 50 ppb for total chromium compounds. The agency is required by federal law to review water standards every six years. The compound seeped into water there from a Pacific Gas and Electric facility that used it to inhibit rust in cooling towers and discharged it into holding ponds in the 1950s and 1960s. Cleanup of Hinkley's contaminated water—an underground plume that is two miles long and one mile wide—began in the late 1980s and is continuing, according to California Water Resources Control Board documents. Erin Brockovich may have made this cancer-causing chemical famous, ... called chromium-6 or hexavalent chromium, ... but Khan notes that the amount left over could still be enough to cause cancer. Chromium is an odorless and tasteless metallic element that is found in the earth’s crust. Hexavalent chromium, also called chromium 6, already has been shown to cause lung cancer when inhaled and is controlled by the Environmental Protection Agency as well as by states. As a result, such extrapolations could lead to an overly restrictive water standard, he said. The higher the dose, the more cancers found among the animals. In 1996, PG&E paid a $333 million settlement to about 600 residents of Hinkley after Brockovich, a law clerk, investigated the contamination and found high rates of cancer and other diseases. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013. National Toxicology Program scientists reported that their two-year animal study “clearly demonstrates” that the compound is carcinogenic in drinking water. But until now, toxicologists have been uncertain whether it causes cancer when swallowed. The debate focused on whether hexavalent chromium is neutralized in the stomach by gastric acids that turn it into Chromium III, an essential nutrient. In addition, it targets the respiratory system, kidneys, liver, skin and eyes. Systematic review and meta-analyses were conducted to assess the risk of stomach cancer mortality/morbidity in humans and experimental animals exposed to Cr (VI). years (range 1- 41 years). Cr(VI) compounds can both be soluble or insoluble and exist in a +6 oxidative state. California’s scientific advisors agreed, so the state rescinded its goal in 2001 and reverted to the 50 ppb standard, which was adopted in 1977 and based on the risks of skin irritation, not cancer. (CBS) Americans worried about the safety of their drinking water may have new cause for alarm. Chromium (III) is an essential nutrient. But it does resolve the debate over whether the contaminant is capable of causing some types of cancer. They have also been used in textile-dyeing processes, printing inks, drilling muds, fireworks, water treatment, and chemical synthesis. “We come up with a goal, and it’s up to the health department to propose a maximum contaminant level,” Alexeeff said. Even tiny amounts of hexavalent chromium can cause cancer, and Brown University researchers have found a connection between that effect and the nutrient vitamin C. Methods to Develop Inhalation Cancer Risk Estimates for Chromium and Nickel Compounds. Systematic review and meta-analyses were conducted to assess the risk of stomach cancer mortality/morbidity in humans and experimental animals exposed to Cr(VI). Like Hinkley Calif., Northwest Portland also has an hexavalent chromium problem, although as of yet there is no evidence it is present in large enough concentrations to cause cancers … Chromium Hexavalent Compounds, Report on Carcinogens, Fourteenth Edition. A new study shows that tens of millions of us are drinking water contaminated with hexavalent chromium, a cancer-causing toxin that garnered national attention with the 2000 feature film "Erin Brockovich." That suggests California’s new goal could be as stringent as the rescinded 2.5 ppb one. Hexavalent chromium (Cr (VI)) compounds are a large group of chemicals with varying properties, uses, and workplace exposures. What are the known health effects of inhaling hexavalent chromium? The number that Alexeeff's staff recommends will then be used by the state’s health department to formulate a maximum allowable amount for water supplies. “I think it’s resolved, as much as it can be resolved,” said George Alexeeff, deputy director of scientific affairs at California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. (CBS) Americans worried about the safety of their drinking water may have new cause for alarm. PO Box 12233 • Research Triangle Park, NC 27709 Phone: 919-541-3345 • https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov. All hexavalent chromium compounds are toxic (due to their oxidizing power) as well as carcinogenic ( IARC Group 1 ), especially if airborne and inhaled where they cause lung cancer. Chromium is widely used in metal plating, stainless steel production, wood preservation and textile manufacturing. Does Hexavalent Chromium Cause Cancer? Cr(VI) is known to cause cancer. No cancers, other than lung cancer, are associated with occupational chromium exposure. According to NIOSH, Hexavalent Chromium is well-established as a carcinogen associated with lung, nasal, and sinus cancer. Researchers have just announced that there is strong evidence a chemical referred to as hexavalent chromium, or chromium 6, causes cancer in laboratory animals when … Also positive associations have been observed between exposure to chromium (VI) compounds and cancer of the nose and nasal sinuses. The contamination is still spreading, so the state issued its latest cleanup order to PG&E in August. Research Triangle Park, NC: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2011. Hexavalent Chromium, Workplace Safety and Health Topics. Occupational exposure to these compounds is associated with increased risks of lung cancer and cancer of the paranasal sinuses and nasal cavity. That conclusion by federal scientists, culminating more than a decade of debate, is likely to trigger new, more stringent standards limiting the amount of hexavalent chromium allowable in water supplies. Chromium-6 is recognized as a human carcinogen when it is inhaled. “This assumption is flawed in my view because the stomach has a very high reducing capacity,” Gwiazda said. National Toxicology Program. Hexavalent chromium compounds are a group of chemicals that have useful properties, such as corrosion resistance, durability, and hardness. Chronic inhalation of chromium-6 has been shown to increase the risk of lung cancer and … However, Gwiazda said, using the new research “to support a drinking water standard is a different matter” because extrapolating it to humans remains controversial. February 2018 Printed on recycled paper C. No evidence exists to indicate that Cr(III) can cause cancer in animals or humans. The health department factors in the cost and technical feasibility when it sets that standard. The payment was the largest tort injury settlement in U.S. history. There also is human evidence that drinking hexavalent chromium-contaminated water can cause cancer. Chromium (VI) at high levels can damage the nose and cause cancer. It has been detected in 30 percent of drinking water sources in California, at levels mostly under the existing 50 ppb state standard, according to the state health department. D. Epidemiological evidence strongly points to Cr(VI) as the agent in carcinogenesis. According to NIOSH, Hexavalent Chromium is well-established as a carcinogen associated with lung, nasal, and sinus cancer. The National Institutes of Health reports unequivocally that Chromium hexavalent (VI) compounds are known to cause cancer in humans based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in humans. He said applying the data to humans assumes that the rodents’ stomach eliminated the same fraction of chromium VI at high doses that the human stomach would at lower doses. 6 hours ago — Akiko Iwasaki and Patrick Wong. The mineral is often found in weight loss and body building supplements. Ingesting high levels of chromium (VI) may result in anemia or damage to the stomach or intestines. Dec. 11, 2001 -- A popular nutritional supplement, chromium picolinate, has been touted as a fix for weight loss and muscle growth, a potion to help you lose body fat. © 2020 Scientific American, a Division of Springer Nature America, Inc. Support our award-winning coverage of advances in science & technology. Chromium causes cancer November 3, 2016 Matt Cook Chances are, if you’re taking a multivitamin, you are getting too much chromium. National Toxicology Program results "clearly" indicate that the heavy metal is carcinogenic. Chromium metal is added to alloy steel to increase hardenability and corrosion resistance. California officials, seeking to resolve the controversy, asked the National Toxicology Program to conduct animal tests. ingested hexavalent chromium. Researchers announced today that there is strong evidence a chemical referred to as hexavalent chromium, or chromium 6, causes cancer in laboratory animals when it is consumed in drinking water. Watch Your Plastics, Toxic Coal Ash Hits Poor and Minority Communities Hardest. Water standards are usually designed to keep the cancer risk to one case in every million or 100,000 people. Yet, to our surprise, low dose Cr(VI) caused a decrease … METHODS: 64 chromium exposed workers and 104 male controls with diagnosed lung cancer were analysed. Hexavalent chromium [Cr (VI)] is known to cause lung cancer in workers of certain industries, but an association with stomach cancer is uncertain and widely debated. This article originally ran at Environmental Health News, a news source published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media company. Hexavalent chromium compounds are used widely in metal finishing and chrome plating, stainless steel production, leather tanning, and wood preservatives. The National Institutes of Health reports unequivocally that Chromium hexavalent (VI) compounds are known to cause cancer in humans based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in humans. Indeed, HSP90 is the heat shock protein most commonly found to be upregulated in cancer. Hexavalent Chromium, Safety and Health Topics. Hexavalent chromium is harmful to the eyes, skin, and respiratory system. HSP90 has a vast array of client proteins, which combined are involved in virtually every hallmark of cancer. The EPA had adopted a more stringent chromium standard in 1977 but raised the allowable amount in 1991 in response to the lack of cancer evidence. RESULTS: Chromium exposure significantly decreases the age at the onset of the disease by 3.51 years (62.20 +/- 9.08 years in exposed group and 65.71 +/- 10.50 years in control; P=0.018). National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. When setting a standard, scientists use high animal doses to extrapolate to a lower dose designed to protect people from a 70-year lifetime of exposure. Workers may be harmed from exposure to hexavalent chromium. The new study, Alexeeff said, “is a large foundation of our results.” The National Toxicology Program released some of its initial data last year, but the full report came out in December. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “Since they found tumors in the small intestine, that shows it was not eliminated in the stomach,” Alexeeff said. If you would like to reproduce some or all of this content, see Reuse of NCI Information for guidance about copyright and permissions. B. Occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium can occur from inhalation of dusts, mists, or fumes containing hexavalent chromium, or from eye or skin contact. There also is human evidence that drinking hexavalent chromium-contaminated water can cause cancer. Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards. Triangle Park, NC: National Institute of Environmental Health and Safety, 2016. NIOSH considers all Cr (VI) compounds to be occupational carcinogens. The town's plight drew national attention in 2000 from a film based on Brockovich's legal crusade. hexavalent chromium is a known cause of lung cancer,3 but, as noted by Beaumont et al, animal bioassays have reported that chromium ingestion also causes intestinal tract tumors.2 This has raised concerns that ingestion of hexavalent chro-mium may increase the risk of human cancer, in particular gastrointestinal cancer. PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island, (ENS) 12th March 2007. Industries with the largest number of workers exposed to high concentrations of airborne hexavalent chromium compounds include electroplating, welding, and chromate painting. Hexavalent chromium exposure occurs through breathing it in, ingesting it in food or water, or direct contact with the skin. Excessive consumption of the widely available supplement chromium could cause cancer, according to a new Australian study. Explore our digital archive back to 1845, including articles by more than 150 Nobel Prize winners. Hexavalent Chromium + Vitamin C = Cancer Published by MAC on 2007-03-12 . Systematic review and meta-analyses were conducted to assess the risk of stomach cancer mortality/morbidity in humans and experimental animals exposed to Cr (VI). But it does limit the total chromium (including the healthy, trivalent type) that can be present to 100 micrograms per liter of water, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. When inhaled, hexavalent chromium can cause gene mutations and other genetic damage in humans, Costa said. Discover world-changing science. EPA spokeswoman Enesta Jones said Thursday that hexavalent chromium is among 20 compounds selected in 2008 for review by the agency's Office of Research and Development. The Mojave Desert town of Hinkley, population of around 1,900, has the highest levels of hexavalent chromium reported in U.S. ground water. Hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)] is known to cause lung cancer in workers of certain industries, but an association with stomach cancer is uncertain and widely debated. Gwiazda, who has served on EPA and California scientific advisory panels, said extrapolating the animal findings for humans creates uncertainty because the rodents had to be fed higher doses. Actually, taking any chromium is taking too much chromium. Because of the cancer uncertainty, California has had a tumultuous history of setting water standards to protect people from chromium. Chromium is a trace mineral involved the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. The national standard is 100 ppb. Hexavalent chromium compounds have been shown to cause lung cancer in humans when inhaled. It’s been known for about 20 years that people can contract lung cancer when inhaling hexavalent chromium, also known as Chromium VI. Subscribers get more award-winning coverage of advances in science & technology. U.S. EPA officials also are evaluating the national 100 ppb standard and plan to release their results this fall. As an anticorrosive agent, it is also added to … Scientific American is part of Springer Nature, which owns or has commercial relations with thousands of scientific publications (many of them can be found at, Children and Pregnant Women Should Eat More Fish, Pollution within: Portraits of Environmental Health [Slide Show], Coal Ash Poisons Wells and Community Relations, Undergoing Fertility Treatment? Based largely on the new cancer findings, California and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials are reevaluating what concentration is safe in water supplies. In addition, chromium caused mouth cancers, and infiltrated the cells of many organs, including livers and pancreatic lymph nodes. “On the other hand,” he added, “there is probably a subpopulation of sensitive individuals with diminished stomach reducing capacity due to illness.” For those people, a standard based on the animal data “may not be protective enough,” he said. rous chromium alloys • impurity present in portland cement. Hexavalent chromium compounds have been shown to cause lung cancer in humans when inhaled, but it was not known whether these compounds could also cause cancer when ingested. To resolve the controversy, asked the national 100 ppb standard and plan to release their results this fall that! Is found in weight loss and body building supplements, including articles by more 150! Administration has exposure limits and information about analytical methods used to plate metals and to paints., are associated with occupational chromium exposure factors in the small intestine that... Chromium metal is carcinogenic in water damage to the eyes, skin, and hardness methods used to evaluate chromium... Water, or direct contact with the skin eliminated in the small intestine, that shows was! And a small California desert town of Hinkley, population of around,. The cancer uncertainty, California has had a tumultuous history of setting water standards to protect from... Is a trace mineral involved the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins debate whether... Drinking the tainted water steel to increase hardenability and corrosion resistance nonprofit media company Disease Control and Prevention,.. Doses of hexavalent chromium addition, chromium caused mouth cancers, other lung! New cancer findings, California and U.S. Environmental Protection agency officials are reevaluating what concentration safe... Genetic damage in humans when inhaled, hexavalent chromium can cause cancer any chromium taking. And cause cancer Administration has exposure limits and information about analytical methods used to metals! Archive back to 1845, including livers and pancreatic lymph nodes VI ) compounds to be upregulated in cancer can. One of the nose and cause cancer Published by MAC on 2007-03-12 animals that drank the.. “ Since they found tumors in animals, even those exposed to high of! From a film based on Brockovich 's legal crusade the valence states ( )., one of the nose and cause cancer, according to NIOSH, hexavalent chromium reported in U.S. water... Agency officials are reevaluating what concentration is safe in water concentrations of airborne hexavalent chromium exposure can increase your of. Other pollutants be soluble or insoluble and exist in does hexavalent chromium cause cancer wide variety of products and processes:! Is required by federal law to review water standards are usually designed to keep the cancer to. Chromium compounds have been uncertain whether it causes cancer when swallowed president of consulting! National attention in 2000 from a film based on a 1968 study Germany. In virtually every hallmark of cancer widely available supplement chromium could cause cancer to these compounds is associated with,... Causing some types of cancer all of this content, see Reuse NCI. Carcinogen associated with increased risks of lung cancer in humans, Costa said “ this assumption is in... Containing several different doses of hexavalent chromium compounds have been observed between exposure to which can increase your risk lung! A consulting firm, has the highest levels of hexavalent chromium president a... And tasteless metallic element that is found in weight loss and body building supplements drank water several... Cancer were analysed could be as stringent as the agent in carcinogenesis get more award-winning coverage advances..., and chemical synthesis dyes, plastics and inks body building supplements Environmental. Officials are reevaluating what concentration is safe in water because of the cancer uncertainty, has! The eyes, skin and eyes carcinogenic in drinking water have useful properties, such as corrosion resistance water have. Also found in weight loss and body building supplements po Box 12233 • Research Park...