Sometimes naturally occurring elements can be completely harmless, even essential, to the body in one form, but gravely dangerous in another. This contradiction is true for chromium-3 and chromium-6, two forms of the transition metal chromium, known for its high resistance to wear. Chromium-3, trivalent chromium, is an essential need of the human body, thought to aid in the breakdown of sugars and fats. This compound is found in many foods, as well as natural water sources, and poses no threat to the body when ingested at naturally occurring levels. The story of chromium-6, hexavalent chromium, is much more complicated.
Chromium-6, as well as other chromium compounds, occur naturally in the earth and can be released into the environment through natural processes like erosion. Higher concentrations of the contaminant chromium are released during industrial mining. With a high melting point and a tough, resistant nature, chromium is used to make strong metal alloys, including steel.
The contaminant is also made useful in the production of pigments, dyes, and preservatives for goods like wood and leather. Industrial production and errors in these processes, such as improper storage or disposal of waste, spike the contaminant’s abundance and can create geographic variations in chromium concentration. For example, a study by the World Health Organization found higher chromium concentrations in the United States and Canada than countries throughout Europe. When a contaminant is abundant in the environment, it can settle into water sources, ultimately becoming a contaminant in drinking water supplies.
Matching hexavalent chromium’s contrast in its method of introduction to the body, this contaminant compound produces dangerous effects when ingested, much different than the essential uses of chromium-3. Short term exposure to chromium contaminated water can cause ulcers throughout the body, or, in high concentration, chromium toxicity or “chromium poisoning” can occur. These symptoms include:
Chromium toxicity is a serious condition that can lead to the failure or damage of many organs and should be treated immediately if symptoms occur. Long term exposure to the contaminant is known to result in the damage of the kidneys, liver, circulatory system, and nerve tissues. Additionally, chromium is now considered a probable carcinogen. Though studies are incomplete because serious examination of chromium as a carcinogen began only in 2010, ingestion of this contaminant has been associated lung cancer.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a maximum contaminant level at which chromium can legally occur in drinking water. This standard is currently 0.1 milligrams per liter (mg/L) or 100 parts per billion. However, with chromium’s dangerous health consequences in mind, it is important to protect one’s body from contaminant harms as much as possible. Investing in a home water-filtration system is a great way to improve the health of your water supply and yourself.
Reverse-osmosis filtration systems are highly effective, with chromium removal rates of 90% or higher. This type of filtration uses high pressure to force water through a semi-permeable membrane which many impurities, including chromium, cannot pass through. Another option to control chromium contamination is an ion-exchange filtration system. These systems work by passing water through a contaminate-selective resin which exchanges the contaminant for a non-harmful substance, commonly sodium. While both systems are effective in reducing chromium contamination levels, reverse-osmosis systems tend to be a more cost efficient option with less upkeep.
For more details about chromium in drinking water, visit the EPA’s website Epa.gov
In order to safeguard yourself from serious waterborne problems or risks to health, consider using water filters at home or at institutions. Water filtration for all uses can easily provide protection from contaminants. It is highly recommended to adopt a convenient and affordable water filtration method to fight potentially harmful elements found in Water supply caused due to Water pollution.