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The news is generally bad if you’re drinking unfiltered tap water in America. According to a report recently released by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, the tap water in at least 31 American cities is contaminated with hexavalent chromium, or chromium-6, a known human carcinogen.

Chromium-6 became somewhat infamous back in 1996, when Erin Brockovich helped bring a lawsuit against California’s PG&E for allowing the chemical to enter the water supply in Hinkley, CA. PG&E lost the suit and had to pay over $330 million in damages.

To test the water, The Environmental Working Group recruited volunteers all across the country to collect samples from taps in houses as well as hospitals, libraries and other public buildings.

California’s state environmental agency has proposed capping levels of the chemical in drinking water at 0.06 parts per billion. The Environmental Working Group said 25 of the cities it tested showed exceeded that level.

"I was expecting to find hexavalent chromium in some of the cities we checked, but I didn’t expect it to be so widespread," said Rebecca Sutton, a senior scientist with the Environmental Working Group and the lead author of the study.

Sutton said there is a well-documented corollary between exposure to chromium-6 and a greater risk of stomach cancer in humans. Additionally, there is ample animal evidence showing a broad risk of gastrointestinal tumors in rats and mice exposed to the toxin, she said. –CNN

Undoubtedly, the federal government needs to more rigorously regulate and test for this chemical in our drinking water. In the meantime, should you buy bottled water instead of drinking tap water to avoid this toxic chemical? Not necessarily. Because bottled water isn’t stringently regulated, there’s no guarantee it doesn’t contain as much chromium-6 as tap water.

You can, however, get yourself a good water filter and make sure to use it for drinking as well as cooking and washing fruits and vegetables. Rather than buying bottled water in plastic bottles on the go, fill a stainless steel or glass reusable bottle with filtered water.

Cities with Chromium-6 in Tap Water:

1. Norman, Oklahoma
2. Honolulu, Hawaii
3. Riverside, California
4. Madison, Wisconsin
5. San Jose, California
6. Tallahassee, Florida
7. Omaha, Nebraska
8. Albuquerque, New Mexico
9. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
10. Bend, Oregon
11. Salt Lake City, Utah
12. Ann Arbor, Michigan
13. Atlanta, Georgia
14. Los Angeles, California
15. Bethesda, Maryland
16. Phoenix, Arizona
17. Washington, D.C.
18. Chicago, Illinois
19. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
20. Villanova, Pennsylvania
21. Sacramento, California
22. Louisville, Kentucky
23. Syracuse, New York
24. New Haven, Connecticut
25. Buffalo, New York
26. Las Vegas, Nevada
27. New York, New York
28. Scottsdale, Arizona
29. Miami, Florida
30. Boston, Massachusetts
31. Cincinnati, Ohio

Chromium-6 not was found in tap water in: Indianapolis, Indiana; Plano, Texas; Reno, Nevada; and San Antonio, Texas.

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