Julia Roberts played Erin Brockovich in the film of the same name.
The domestic tap water of 31 out of 35 United States cities surveyed contains hexavalent chromium, the probable carcinogen made famous by the film Erin Brockovich, according to an environmental report.
In the first nationwide analysis of the chemical in American water to be made public, the study by the Environmental Working Group detected its presence in 31 out of 35 cities that were tested. The highest levels were in: Norman, Oklahoma; Honolulu, Hawaii; Riverside, California; and Madison, Wisconsin.
The US government’s Environmental Protection Agency is currently deciding whether to set a limit for hexavalent chromium in tap water after the National Institute of Health assessed it a “probable carcinogen” in 2008. The chemical has been linked to leukemia in animals as well as liver and kidney damage.
Hexavalent chromium is often discharged from steel and pulp mills as well as metal-plating and leather-tanning facilities, the report states.
Last year, California became the first state to limit the chemical in drinking water by proposing a “public health goal” of 0.06 parts per billion. Of the 35 cities tested, the study found that 25 had levels in excess of California’s proposed goal.
“This chemical has been so widely used by so many industries across the US that this doesn’t surprise me,” Mrs Brockovich told The Washington Post. “Our municipal water supplies are in danger all over the US.”
Mrs Brockovich’s battle against the chemical on behalf of the people of Hinkley, California was brought to international attention in the 2000 film starring Julia Roberts. She accused Pacific Gas & Electric of leaking hexavalent chromium into the town’s groundwater for decades.
The company eventually had to pay $333 million in damages to more than 600 residents.