Stricter chromium review requested by environmentalists

Jan. 1, 2020
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) and California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) have urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to re-evaluate claims made in its new draft cancer risk estimate within the agen
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) and California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) have urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to re-evaluate claims made in its new draft cancer risk estimate within the agency’s assessment of the risks of ingesting hexavalent chromium (Cr6). They believe the EPA has undercounted some findings in its current study draft.

The EWG and OEHHA want the EPA to recalculate their cancer risk estimate relative to hexavalent chromium. According to an EWG senior scientist, Rebecca Sutton, “The EPA must adjust its evaluation of adenoma and carcinoma incidence documented in the National Toxicology Program (NTP) study and alter its risk calculations accordingly. Proper assessment of tumor incidence may well reveal an increased risk associated with exposure to hexavalent chromium in drinking water.”

The EPA defended its study process in a statement this week: “The EPA absolutely has a drinking water standard for total chromium, which includes chromium-6 (also known as hexavalent chromium), and we require water systems to test for it. This standard is based on the best available science and is enforceable by law. Ensuring safe drinking water for all Americans is a top priority for the EPA. The agency regularly re-evaluates drinking water standards and, based on new science on chromium-6, had already begun a rigorous and comprehensive review of its health effects. In September, we released a draft of that scientific review for public comment. When this human health assessment is finalized in 2011, the EPA will carefully review the conclusions and consider all relevant information, including the Environmental Working Group’s study, to determine if a new standard needs to be set.”

In the EWG letter to the EPA, Sutton highlighted three major points:

  • There is sufficient evidence that hexavalent chromium causes cancer through a mutagenic mode of action, such that the EPA’s use of strict linear modeling is appropriate for risk assessment.
  • A re-analysis of NTP cancer data may be necessary to account for study animals whose organs were harvested but not assessed for tumors, as indicated by the OEHHA staff.
  • Since hexavalent chromium is already classified as a known human carcinogen via inhalation and, according to this draft document, a likely human carcinogen via oral exposure,
Collision shops use many refinishing products in their facilities as well as perform sand, grind and weld procedures, all which may present the opportunity for hexavalent chromium to exist. The U.S. Department of Labor has indicated that hexavalent chromium is a metal shown to cause cancer in some workers exposed to it. Evidence demonstrates that workers exposed to hexavalent chromium are at a higher risk of developing lung cancer, asthma, skin damage and destruction of nasal epithelia. More than 500,000 Americans are exposed to the cancer-causing metal. These Americans include steel workers, welders, chrome platers, and paint and pigment manufacturers.

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