Study finds cancer-causing chemical in Honolulu's tap water

Kurt Tsue
Kurt Tsue

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A study of tap water in nearly three dozen US cities has found that Honolulu had the second highest level of chromium 6, a chemical believed to cause cancer.

The Environmental Working Group says its study is a snapshot that proves more testing needs to be done in this area, and that federal drinking water standards need to be re-examined.

During a muddy game of flag football, these guys don't run to the water fountain nearby to quench their thirst.

"I usually go to the store and buy the bottled water because it tastes better," Chris Sladle, Honolulu resident, said.

Now, they're feeling even better about that decision.

A new study of tap water in 35 American cities has found that Honolulu had the second highest concentration of hexavalent chromium -- or chromium 6 -- a probable carcinogen. The chemical was featured in the Julia Roberts film "Eric Brockovich," and has been linked to gastrointestinal tumors in laboratory animals.

"It's concerning," Sladle said. "Yeah, I mean, just watching the movie, you saw how sick people got from it."

The Environmental Working Group says chromium 6 was detected in Honolulu's water sample at two parts per billion, exceeding the cap of 0.06 parts per billion that was recently proposed in the state of California.

"In comparison to what is generally considered to be kind of a safe level, it is quite a bit higher," Renee Sharp, EWG, said.

The federal government has not set a limit on how much chromium 6 can be present in tap water.

"Currently, the Board of Water Supply does meet all safe drinking, federal and state drinking water standards," Kurt Tsue, Honolulu Board of Water Supply, said. "The current standard for total chromium in drinking water is 100 parts per billion. Now, chromium 6 is actually within that total."

"While chromium 3 is actually a necessary nutrient and essentially harmless, chromium 6 is carcinogenic," Sharp said. "So it's kind of a strange way of regulating a chemical."

Honolulu water officials say they are reviewing the report.

"The Board of Water Supply is committed to protecting public health," Tsue said.

Chromium 6 was a widely used industrial chemical until the early 1990s. It's still used for making steel, plastics and dyes.

Copyright 2010 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.