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Drinking Water Safety

Is there Chromium in My Drinking Water?

​​​​​​​What is chromium?

Chromium is an element found in air, water, rocks, soil, animals, gases, and volcanic dust.

Chromium is found in three forms. Chromium 0 is used to make steel. Chromium III and VI are used to make pigments for:
  • cement
  • chrome plating
  • paper
  • wood preservatives
  • leather tanning
  • paint

How might I be exposed to chromium?

You can be exposed to chromium in:
  • certain foods
  • drinking water
  • air
  • hazardous waste sites

What are some sources of chromium?

Chromium III is found in small amounts in some:
  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • meats
  • grains
  • yeast

Chromium 0 and VI are most often found in industrial areas (e.g., leakage, poor storage, or improper disposal from steel and pulp mills).

How does chromium get into my water?

Chromium can get into drinking water from:
  • steel and pulp mills
  • natural deposits that erode
  • industrial waste
  • water from cooling systems
  • some plumbing fixtures (tap water)
  • industrial areas (leaking, poor storage, or improper disposal)

What effects does chromium have on my health?

Chromium III helps the body use sugar, protein, and fat. It is not harmful unless levels are very high.

Chromium 0 and VI are more harmful and there are health risks with exposure. People who drink water with chromium over the maximum acceptable concentration (MAC) for many years can have health problems like:
  • allergic dermatitis
  • liver damage
  • kidney problems
  • nerve tissue damage
  • death

Chromium VI can cause lung and stomach cancer.

How do I know if there is chromium in my drinking water?

When regular monitoring shows total chromium levels are above the MAC, the water supplier must reduce the amount of chromium to a safe level.

If there is a problem with chromium in any public water supply, customers must be told right away. Another water source must be supplied to prevent health risks.

If you have a private water source, test your water regularly to make sure it is safe. Make sure to have your water sample tested by an accredited lab.

What is the standard for chromium in drinking water?

According to Health Canada, the MAC of chromium in drinking water is 0.05 milligrams per litre (mg/L).

If a consumer or well owner is concerned about chromium in drinking water:
  • use water from another safe source (e.g., municipal system, bottled water) to drink, cook, and brush teeth
  • talk to a professional water specialist to install a certified water treatment unit to remove chromium.
    You can remove chromium from drinking water with:
    • coagulation/filtration
    • ion exchange
    • reverse osmosis
    • ​lime softening

    After you have installed your system, have the treated water tested for chromium to make sure your system is working properly. Monitor and maintain your water treatment equipment according to manufacturer instructions.

    If you have any questions about chromium in water, call Environmental Public Health.​

Current as of: March 13, 2018

Author: Environmental Public Health, Alberta Health Services