SACRAMENTO (AP) — A scientific panel convened by the University of California has found no link between swallowing chromium 6 and cancer, state officials said Friday.
But the Chromate Toxicity Review Committee said that a major study planned by the National Toxicology Project is needed to provide definitive information on the cancer risks of chromium 6 in drinking water.
Chromium is a natural element that has two basic forms: chromium 3, an essential nutrient, and chromium 6, a carcinogen when inhaled.
Public health agencies have not yet determined if chromium 6 is a carcinogen when ingested, but the Department of Health Services and Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment announced in March that they would evaluate whether chromium 6 should be regulated as a drinking water contaminant.
The review committee was formed at the request of Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment to provide guidance in setting a public health standard for chromium 6 in drinking water.
The committee said in its report that it found “no basis in either the epidemiological or animal data published in the literature for concluding that orally ingested chromium 6 is a carcinogen.”
The report said that until the national study is finished the state should continue to maintain its current standard for the total amount of chromium 3 and chromium 6 in drinking water: 50 parts per billion.
A bill awaiting action by Gov. Gray Davis would require the Department of Health Services to adopt a separate drinking water standard for chromium 6 by 2004.
The health threat posed by chromium 6 was the subject of the movie “Erin Brockovich,” which was based on a 1996 case in which residents of the California desert town of Hinkley won a $333 million settlement from Pacific Gas & Electric when the utility company’s tanks leaked high concentrations of chromium 6 into ground water.
Actress Julia Roberts won an Oscar for her portrayal of a law firm assistant whose curiosity about illnesses in Hinkley led to the settlement.