Sunday, December 19, 2010


Environmental Working Group: Honolulu drinking water is second among top five chromium-contaminated cities

by Larry Geller

This is a distinction we don’t need to have. The report puts Hawaii second among the top five cities with unacceptable levels of the carcinogen hexavalent chromium in their tap water::


At this writing, a report by the Environmental Working Group is just being posted on the web and some pages are not yet available. Check for the report here. The pages available so far do not suggest what the source of Honolulu’s chromium contamination might be.

But it should be a concern:

The National Toxicology Program has concluded that hexavalent chromium (also called chromium-6) in drinking water shows “clear evidence of carcinogenic activity” in laboratory animals, increasing the risk of gastrointestinal tumors. In September 2010, a draft toxicological review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) similarly found that hexavalent chromium in tap water is “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”

For once, the argument that bottled water is no better than what you can draw from the tap may not, um, hold water. However, if the source of contamination is from the soil, then bottled water such as Menehune draws from the ground near the animal quarantine station in Aiea may also be suspect. Bottled water is not held to standards as is tap water.

(Thanks to Shannon Rudolph for forwarding an article on this subject)


Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I have downloaded the report as a pdf and skimmed it.

I would suggest you re-write your post a bit to clarify the chromium is found in tap water. As I read your piece, the references to tap water appeared too far down and appeared to be ONE possible source rather than THE source being studied. (Maybe just insert the word "water" in your title?)

As I understand it, Honolulu's water supply comes from several different sources with, I would suspect, widely varying levels of contaminants like chromium. So an average figure should set off an alarm, but some wells might have even higher concentrations and some might be clean of the stuff.

I hope both city and state officials will scramble in response to this study, contacting the authors and asking for their raw data, conduct their own water analysis and deal with the problem. I saw in yesterday's paper that Gary Gill is has been named deputy director for the Environment within the state Department of Health. OK, Gary, get to work!

The study says on page 11:

"The widely used tap water disinfectant chlorine, for instance, can cause trivalent to become hexavalent."

Trivalent chromium is a beneficial nutrient. Hexavalent chromium is a toxic carcinogen. So one solution might be to find another way to treat water, other than chlorine.

Thanks again. This may be even more important than the dancing rats.

Bart,you're absolutely correct, I'll correct the post to clearly indicate it's tap water I'm talking about. My bad. It was a long day and I hurried this one out. By the time you see this the article should be improved.

I didn't know about that transformation of trivalent to hexavalent chromium. The full report wasn't available at the time I wrote my article.

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