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'Erin Brockovich' Chemical Discovered in 31 Cities' Tap Water

The movie "Erin Brockovich" chronicled how the Hollywood heroine helped residents of Hinkley, California sue PG&E over the presence of hexavalent chromium in the town's drinking water. Ultimately winning $333 million in damages and an injunction to clean the town's drinking water, Erin Brochovich brought national attention to the toxin and the importance of safe drinking water. Now, hexavalent chromium, a cancer-causing toxin, has been discovered in 31 cities' tap water.

In addition to stomach cancer and leukemia, the Erin Brockovich chemical has been linked to a variety of health conditions. Steel and pulp mill discharge as well as erosion from natural deposits are the biggest sources of hexavalent Chromium in city drinking water. The cities with the highest levels of the toxin: Norman, Okla.; Honolulu, Hawaii; Riverside, Calif.; Madison, Wis.; San Jose, Calif.

The results, which were released by the Environmental Working Group took samples from 35 cities, and apparently only 4 passed the test. Although there is no national limit, exposing the dangers in drinking water may eventually follow down such a path. Last year California proposed a public health goal to limit the presence of hexavalent chromium in drinking water, which would represent the first state limit in the nation.

Consumers that use inexpensive water filters (such as Brita and Purr) are not immune to potential health issues from the toxin. Only bottled water and costly reverse-osmosis flirtation systems are able to shield water drinkers. 

"This chemical has been so widely used by so many industries across the U.S. that this doesn't surprise me. Our municipal water supplies are in danger all over the U.S. This is a chemical that should be regulated ... With levels this high, it's critically important that people begin to think about filtering their water." CBS News quotes senior vice president for the Environmental Working Group, Jane Houlihan. Beyond a personal injury issue, the study represents a health hazard that requires regulation rather than lawsuits to promote the necessary change.

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