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Chromium is the 21st most abundant element in the Earth’s crust and can be present in different chemical forms in plants, soil and volcanic dust, water, humans and animals. Because it is a prevalent natural element, chromium can be present in the air, food, and water.

Chromium can change from one form to another in water and soil. Hexavalent Chromium is one of these chemical forms. Hexavalent chromium is also commonly called chromium 6, chromium VI, chrome 6, Cr(VI), Cr+6 or hex chrome. Other common forms of chromium are trivalent chromium, also known as chromium 3, and the metal form, chromium 0. Chromium can convert between chromium 3 and chromium 6 in different environments.

Chromium exposure can occur by breathing it in, ingesting it in food or water, or through direct contact with the skin. People may be exposed to chromium working in industries that process or use chromium, chromium compounds, or chromium processes. Examples include people working with chromate-containing pigments, spray paints, coatings, chrome plating baths, and metal (such as stainless steel) cutting or welding. Chromium can be found in low levels in water supplies either as the result of industrial activities or from naturally occurring sources.
Water systems currently control total chromium levels. By setting a standard for total chromium, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency manages the risk from hexavalent chromium, which is the form of chromium presenting the most significant concern. The existing standard for total chromium was set in 1992 to protect against allergic dermatitis (skin reactions) and was set at the protective level indicated by the science at the time. The drinking water standard for total chromium is 100 parts per billion.

Currently, water systems test for “total chromium.” In other words, they test for chromium in all its forms. If the amount of total chromium in your tap water exceeds regulations set under the Safe Drinking Water Act, your water system will notify you.

Your water system publishes a consumer confidence report each year and makes that report publicly available. The report is often available on the Internet, but you may need to contact your water provider to request a copy. Contact your public water system to learn more about chromium testing and results. You can usually find contact information for your public water system on your water bill.

The drinking water standard for total chromium, which includes hexavalent chromium, is 100 parts per billion. A part per billion is equal to roughly one second in 32 years. Chromium was one of the contaminants included in EPA’s Third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule testing along with hexavalent chromium. Depending on the outcome of this testing, it’s possible that EPA may decide to alter the way that chromium is regulated in the future.

If you get your drinking water from a private well, you should have your water tested by a certified laboratory at least once a year. You can find information on how to sample for chromium and where to send samples for analysis by contacting your state water laboratory certification officer. Contact information for your state can be found on EPA’s drinking water lab certification page. Additional information about well water testing from EPA is available on their private drinking water well FAQ page
If you are concerned about chromium in your drinking water, you may consider purchasing a home treatment device. However, in order to make a well-informed and cost-effective decision, consider:
  • Checking with your water system or consumer confidence report to learn about the amount of total chromium in your water.
  • Identifying a device that has been independently certified to remove chromium.
NSF International, the Water Quality Association, Underwriters Laboratories and CSA International all certify home treatment products for removal of contaminants. The relevant chromium removal standard is NSF/ANSI Standard 58. If you choose to use a home treatment device, it is very important to follow the manufacturer's operation and maintenance instructions carefully in order to make sure the device works properly.
Bottled water quality can vary. Bottled water in the United States is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is required to meet standards equal to the EPA’s tap water standards. There are also individual state standards. However, in most cases, you must contact the bottled water manufacturer for information about chromium levels.