Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson expressing his disappointment with the EPA's decision to delay the completion of their Chromium 6 toxicology assessment and urging EPA to complete the assessment in a timely fashion. In 2010, the EPA released its draft Chromium 6 study which found that it was likely carcinogenic and a danger to human health when ingested. However, the EPA recently announced that it would take that draft ingestion study -- already behind schedule -- and combine it with an ongoing inhalation assessment. Without immediate action by the EPA, local water agencies will not take the steps necessary to protect millions of Americans from the harmful effects of Chromium 6.
"The National Toxicology Program study, which I requested almost a decade ago, established that Chromium 6 is hazardous, harmful and carcinogenic, and the government has yet to take action," said Schiff. "With this harmful substance found in tap water of communities across the nation, it's imperative that the EPA act quickly to protect the public health and complete this risk assessment. "The EPA must stop wasting time and release their final analysis of Chromium 6 in drinking water. Any further delay is unconscionable."
In 2001, Rep. Schiff spearheaded an effort to commission the study by the National Institutes of Health's National Toxicology Program. The study found that high doses of Chromium 6 in drinking water cause cancer in lab rodents. The link between Chromium 6 and cancer garnered national attention after the release of the movie "Erin Brockovich" in 2000. Congressman Schiff has long worked to keep Chromium 6 out of drinking water, dating back to his work in the California State Senate. As a State Senator, he sponsored a bill requiring the California Department of Health Services to prepare a report on the amount of Chromium 6 in the San Fernando Valley aquifer and the danger it poses to residents. Additionally, Rep. Schiff has secured more than a million and a half dollars to develop technology capable of removing heavy metals such as Chromium 6 from drinking water in Glendale.
This month, Schiff called on California Department of Public Health's (CDPH) Director Ron Chapman to move quickly to establish a Maximum Containment Level (MCL) for Chromium 6. Before treatment, underground water from some local Los Angeles County wells contains between 45 and 70 parts per billion of Chromium 6. It was also recently announced that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency planned to install 30 wells in the Glendale-Burbank area this month to monitor levels of Chromium 6 in underground water.
The letter Schiff sent to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is below:
Lisa P. Jackson Administrator Environmental Protection Agency 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, 1101A Washington, DC 20460
Dear Administrator Jackson,
As you know, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced a new schedule for completing its Hexavalent Chromium, or Chromium 6, toxicology assessment. I am deeply disappointed by the EPA's decision to effectively restart the assessment process at the very time it was to have concluded. A decade ago, I requested a National Toxicology Program study to determine whether Chromium 6 can cause cancer when ingested through drinking water. The conclusion of that study -- considered the gold standard in the scientific community -- was that Chromium 6 was indeed carcinogenic. The EPA's September 2010 draft Chromium 6 toxicology assessment of when the compound is ingested proposed classifying Chromium 6 as likely to cause cancer in humans when ingested over a lifetime. It is clear that Chromium 6 is dangerous to human health when ingested through drinking water. However, in February of this year, EPA announced that it was combining the ongoing ingestion and inhalation assessments into a single assessment. The final assessment is not expected to be completed until the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2015, three years later than the original ingested assessment was supposed to be completed.
This means that it will be at least another three years before the EPA will determine on the basis of the final assessment if drinking water standards need to be updated, as required under the Safe Drinking Water Act, to better protect Americans from this harmful compound. Given that this issue impacts the safety of drinking water, that kind of delay is unconscionable. It also does not make any sense to combine the ongoing assessments. There is no reason to delay the finalization of the ingestion assessment by tying it to the inhalation assessment when a 1998 EPA study already concluded that Chromium 6 is a known human carcinogen via inhalation. I am sure that the updated inhalation assessment will produce significant human health benefits, but in making the release of the final ingestion assessment contingent on the final inhalation assessment it ensures that local water agencies in the interim will not be required to take steps to most effectively protect millions of Americans from this carcinogenic compound. I strongly urge the EPA to move as quickly and responsibly as possible to complete the assessment process for Chromium 6 for ingestion through drinking water, so that Americans can be confident that their drinking water is safe to consume.
I look forward to hearing from the EPA about what steps the agency is taking to complete the assessment process in a timely fashion.
Adam B. Schiff
Member of Congress