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How to Filter Chromium 6 From Water

By: Craig Smith
Last Updated:

If you have tested your tap water and found that there is a significant amount of chromium-6 in it, then you have a legitimate right to be concerned. It’s a known carcinogen that can lead to many adverse health problems even when ingested in very small amounts.

That’s why we here at Water Tech Advice felt it was an important enough topic to discuss further on our website. It’s also a metallic element that can be successfully removed from your drinking water.

I am prepared to go over with you here what chromium-6 is, how it ends up in your tap water, how to test for it, and most importantly how to filter it out of your tap water.    

Chances are the more that you learn about chromium-6, the more you will want to take steps to make sure that you and your family don’t take too much of it into your bodies.

What is Chromium 6?

Three main types of element chromium are found naturally occurring in the environment. These are chromium metals, chromium-3 which is an essential human dietary nutrient, and it’s more toxic cousin chromium-6.

These three are often what makes up the total chromium level in the water that comes into your home. 

Chromium-6 is a metallic element that’s also commonly referred to as hexavalent chromium. It’s tasteless and odorless so you will not even know it’s present in your water unless you test for it.

It is found both naturally occurring in the environment in small quantities and its man-made derivative is sometimes used in large quantities in industrial processes.

How Does Chromium 6 Get into Drinking Water?

Naturally occurring chromium-6 is found in soil, rocks, volcanic dust, ash, plants, and even animals & humans. Erosion is the natural process that helps this substance make its way into your water supply.

Unfortunately, that is not even close to being the biggest reason that hexavalent chromium impacts your water.

Industrial pollution is the biggest source of chromium-6 being introduced into the environment. This is most often associated with the poor disposal and storage of waste that contains chromium-6. It’s either created for use in or results as a byproduct of several industrial processes.

Some industrial processes that require large quantities of chromium-6 or produce chromium-6 waste include steel manufacturing, chrome plating processes, manufacturing such as textile making that uses large amounts of pigment, and dyes.

It’s also popular to use as a wood & leather preservative and as an additive to reduce water temperatures in electrical power plants.  

An EPA study declared that chromium-6 is commonly found in undesirable quantities in 75% of the drinking water supplies across America. A figure that equates to over 2/3 of the households in America having drinking water supplies that contain it.

What are the Risks Associated with Chromium 6?

If you are a fan of the actress Julia Roberts, you may already be aware that ingesting chromium-6 comes with some definite risks to human health. 

This is because she starred in the movie ‘Erin Brockovich’ that was released in 2000 and she even won an Academy Award for best actress for her performance.

It’s a movie about an average single mother who goes on a crusade to get Pacific Gas & Electric Company to take accountability for polluting the water supplies of Hinkley, California with toxic chromium-6.       

This is a metallic substance that can be harmful both when breathed into the lungs and when ingested. It’s a known contributor to lung, mouth, intestinal, nasal, and sinus cancers along with causing ulcers, and nasal, skin, and eye irritations.

Ingesting hexavalent chromium is also believed to damage the stomach, intestines, kidneys, and liver. It’s even thought to impact male reproductive organs and possibly contribute to severe pneumonia. 

The list of potential health impacts of hexavalent chromium is too long to list them all. That definitely makes it a substance that you want to keep out of you and your loved one’s bodies if at all possible.

How to test for Chromium 6

If you are wondering if it’s possible to test for hexavalent chromium in your tap water, the answer is yes. The most accurate method for doing this is by using infrared spectroscopy. This is not technology that’s readily accessible to you or me, so instead you will have to turn to water testing.

test-kit

They make easy-to-use test strips that are only intended to measure the chromium level in your tap water including hexavalent chromium. You just dip them in a sample of your household water and then compare the results with a chart on the back of the container.     

I would recommend that if you are going to take the time to test for chromium-6 that you also test your home’s water supply with a water test kit to find out what other harmful contaminants are lingering in it at the same time.

You may want to start by using the test strips and if you find chromium-6 is present in your drinking water, you can then order a more comprehensive water sample kit and send a water sample to the lab for more accurate results.  

How to Remove Chromium 6 From Water

The problem with removing hexavalent chromium from tap water is its small-sized particles. 

Typical and common activated carbon-based filtration systems and KDF filters can remove it but they have trouble keeping the media from releasing it back into your water supply because of its small size.

According to the WQA, the best method to remove hexavalent chromium is by your water passing through a more extreme and effective form of filtration called reverse osmosis.

A good reverse osmosis water filtration system has membranes in it that have extremely small pore sizes that are so small they are unable to be seen by the human eye. Often the pore size found in reverse osmosis membranes is as small as 1-micron.

That makes them very impactful not only when it comes to removing chromium-6 but at removing or significantly reducing a wide variety of other contaminants.  

This impressive and extensive list includes bacteria & other pathogens, chlorine taste & odor, limescale causing compounds, sand, rust, total dissolved solids, lead, copper, chloride, sodium, and many more.

Reverse osmosis setups are point-of-use water filtration systems that are normally placed very close to your kitchen faucet.

Reverse Osmosis Systems

These systems rarely include just reverse osmosis filtration. Most of the time they will work in conjunction with such support stages as pre-sediment filters, activated carbon filters, KDF filters, and even water conditioners.

That’s why they are so impactful when it comes to removing many commonly found impurities in household water. It’s very hard for people not to feel better about the water that they drink after they have added reverse osmosis filters. 

Although these systems work very effectively when it comes to cleaning up your incoming water supplies, they do have some drawbacks.

That includes a somewhat high initial cost, a slow water filtration rate, and you will have to change the filter elements in them at intervals specified by the manufacturer.

FAQs

Here are some very common questions that I get regarding the presence of chromium-6 in tap water.         

Does reverse osmosis remove chromium 6?

If you are wondering if reverse osmosis filtration will remove hexavalent chromium from tap water, the answer is definitely yes. 

Not only will an RO filtration system remove chromium-6, but they work very well at reducing hexavalent chromium.

You will also benefit from the fact that reverse osmosis reduces or removes many other drinking water contaminants as well.

Does Boiling Water Remove Chromium 6?

Boiling water does not remove Chromium 6 unless you are using a more sophisticated and time-consuming distillation process.

Does bottled water contain chromium 6?

If you are concerned about your drinking water and you consume bottled water, it’s only natural after reading this article that you wonder if bottled water contains hexavalent chromium. The truth is it’s hard to say.

It has been known to show up when bottled water has been tested and strangely there are no standards on the limits of contaminants such as chromium-6 that bottled water companies can have in their product.

How can I find out if my water contains chromium-6?

If you want to know the best way to determine if you have hexavalent chromium in your home’s water, the best way to do that is by testing your tap water. There are several methods that you can use to accomplish this.

These include using test strips that only measure chromium-6 levels, test strips that measure for hexavalent chromium & several other impurities, or ordering a test sample kit online where you send your results to a professional lab for analysis.

What are the regulations for chromium 6 in water?

One of the scariest aspects regarding the risk’s chromium-6 poses to health is that researchers often disagree as to the amount that needs to be ingested to pose a health risk.

Currently, the EPA recommends the maximum contaminant level of total chromium (trivalent chromium + hexavalent chromium) in tap water not be over 100 parts per billion (PPB). But this is only a recommendation and not a regulation.         

At present, the only state with regulations regarding the acceptable limits of hexavalent chromium in drinking water is California with a limit of 50 parts per billion (PPB). A limit that is much higher than the .02 PPB that public health researchers in the state had requested.

Some Last Thoughts on Chromium 6

Considering that there is a growing body of evidence that chromium-6 poses many health risks, I definitely feel that it’s a substance that you should take steps to keep out of your body. Filtering your drinking water is a big part of that.

It’s also very easy to do with a good reverse osmosis water filtration system. These are water purification systems that will go way beyond just removing a significant amount of chromium-6 from your tap water.

Many will remove 100s of the most concerning drinking water contaminants. This will not only result in healthier drinking water but significantly improved taste and smell too.

Best of all, even high-quality reverse osmosis filtration system can be purchased for less than $500. A figure that can quickly be dwarfed by the medical expenses that are associated with any hexavalent chromium-related health issues.

I know I feel much better knowing that my family drinks water that has first passed through a reverse osmosis treatment system.    

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AUTHOR
Craig Smith
Craig got his start in water working in the swimming pool and spa industry. Water treatment would grow into his main career but he ended up working in the pool industry for over 26 years where much of his time was spent balancing the water in customer's swimming pools and installing water filtration equipment. Craig offers an abundance of water treatment knowledge after helping homeowners get pure water for 26 years.

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