By Adam Zaki
Published: March 7th, 2018
Back in September, the Environmental Working Group released a study saying that the carcinogenic chemical known as chromium-6, which was the subject of the movie Erin Brockovich, was found in 90 percent of tap water samples on Long Island.
Although the chemical is below Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards, advocacy groups have claimed that those standards are way too high, and allow the consumption of water that is unsafe to drink and may have fatal effects on its consumers.
The study goes on to say that the levels are over 0.02 parts per billion, a number that California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment set as a public health goal in 2011. According to the study, those levels “would pose negligible risk over a lifetime of consumption.”
With breast cancer rates around 18 percent higher on Long Island than the national average, according to multiple sources, something in the area is negatively impacting the health of the 7.5 million people who call either Nassau County or Suffolk County home.
The study also reports that less than 2 percent of water sources from across the nation have chromium-6 levels as high as Long Island’s tap water, making it some of the lowest quality tap water in the United States.
According to the study, chromium-6 causes cancers, liver damage, and reproductive damage. Along with the modern American diet of processed meats, refined sugars, and loads of carbohydrates, Americans as a whole, not just Long Islanders, are at risk of cancer more than ever before—even without contaminants in their tap water.
I have had a cancer scare of my own, and my mother is currently in remission from throat cancer. After spending our entire lives on Long Island, my experience is extremely common with many of my neighbors, friends, and family members. With cancer treatment advertisements making their way into local television and radio ads more and more, companies that profit off of cancer treatment know that Long Island is one of the best places to make their money.
With water being readily available at grocery stores and from delivery services, access to drinkable water on Long Island isn’t impossible. Despite having controversies of their own regarding how bottled water is packaged and purified, delivery services costing as much as a Netflix membership can provide drinking water that is free of chromium-6.
What about the other uses of water? Showering, brushing your teeth, and using hose water to irrigate gardens—there are other means for these chemicals to make their way into bodies. With personal water filters being very expensive, there aren’t many ways to provide quality water for all of its necessary uses.
As the debate about whether or not tap water is safe continues, political investments and ideologies have gotten in the way of spreading accurate information to citizens who may be affected.
Whether doubters of the cleanliness of water are labeled as conspiracy theorists, or those who deny the contamination of water are labeled as ignorant, the debate has become who is right and who is wrong, rather than trying to disseminate information and make productive change if necessary.