Chromium exists naturally and commonly in two forms: trivalent chromium [Cr (III)] and hexavalent chromium [Cr (VI)]. While Cr (III) is used as a nutrition supplement since it is necessary to the human diet, Cr (VI) has been a cause of concern because of its level of toxicity.
Cr (VI) is often a byproduct of welding steels that contain chromium. Although Cr (VI) is associated more commonly with industrial processes, it occurs naturally in rock, soil and groundwater. It can also enter drinking water supplies through leakages from waste sites at old industrial facilities. When a water supply uses disinfection and Cr (III) is present, oxidation occurs by the disinfectant, and Cr (III) is converted to Cr (VI).
It has been strongly suggested that Cr (VI) is a carcinogen. The contaminant can also cause issues in the respiratory system, kidneys, liver, skin and eyes. The federal maximum contaminant level (MCL) for total chromium is 0.1 parts per million (ppm). In California, the MCL for Cr (VI) was established at 0.01 ppm in 2014.
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