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Tests Reveal Houston's Drinking Water Contains Cancer-Causing Agent

We often hear from our paranoid friends and family members that the rise in certain diseases, like cancer, is because we are constantly surrounded by toxins, be it in the air we breathe or in the food and beverages we consume.

Well, if you're in Houston, Texas, then maybe you should finally start to heed their warnings because there is definitely something in the water that you do not want in your body.

Scientists have recently revealed that the H2O across the city has tested positive for the chromium-6, a dangerous heavy metal that has been linked to causing cancer in humans and animals.

While drinking water across the city contained the chemical also known as hexavalent chromium, one particular ZIP code, 77099, tested the highest once again this year.

"The water is polluted, it's bad. It's terrible," said Akey, an Alief resident who has lived in the area for over five years. "Since I moved in here, I don't even give my dog to drink it. The water is so bad. I use it on my plants, pretty much, that's about it."

In another area, Dayton, mom-of-two Brandy Arick noticed that the water is a "different color."

Many Houston residents, including, City Council member Steve Le, have been using bottled water since the city started regularly testing for chromium-6 last year.

"I feel for my neighbors who cannot afford bottled water, it's expensive!" Le said.

Houston City Council member Steve Le
Houston City Council member Steve LeHouston Chronicle

The latest test showed that the chromium-6 level in the City Council District of Houston is at 6.7 parts per billion. Despite it being high, this number is apparently within the acceptable drinking water standard set by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which is 100 parts per billion.

Le thinks Hurricane Harvey has played a role in causing the contamination.

Every state has their own guidelines for the amount that is considered acceptable. In California, a concentration of just 0.02 parts per billion is a cause for concern because public health officials claim cancer rates begin to rise at that point.

The city of Houston is working towards a solution to provide its residents with clean water. According to Le, residents may need a special filtration system or the city may have to re-route its water source, both of which are pricey options.

"I'm still waiting for Congressman Al Green to get back to me to see what kind of funding we can get," he explained. "He assured me that he's working on it and he's pretty positive that we can get some kind of funding."

Unfortunately, Houston isn't the only city with dealing with chromium-6 contamination.

In 2016, a report by the nonprofit organization Environmental Working Group (EWG) revealed that nearly 200 million Americans are exposed to unsafe levels of the harmful chemical.

One of the most high profile cases of chromium-6 poisoning was between the residents of Hinkey, California and a major utility company called PG&E. The story later became the main subject of the 2000 biographical film Erin Brockovich, starring Julia Roberts.

Brockovich, a legal clerk, famously filed a lawsuit against PG&E after accusing them of poising the residents. She eventually reached a settlement of $333 million.

Decades later, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is still fighting the battle to clean up America's drinking water.

When asked if they're trying to come up with a standard for chromium-6 in tap water by Houston officials, the EPA released a statement that read:

"EPA is working on the development of an Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) assessment, which will include a comprehensive evaluation of potential health effects associated with both inhalation and ingestion of hexavalent chromium. EPA anticipates that a public comment draft of the assessment will be released in late 2019."

However, Houston residents and officials aren't convinced because the federal agency has made a similar promise last year and also in 2016.  

[H/T: Click 2 Houston]

Does your area have clean drinking water? Let us know in the comments!

Blair isn't a bestselling author, but she has a knack for beautiful prose. When she isn't writing for Shared, she enjoys listening to podcasts.