Chromium 6 is both toxic AND carcinogenic even in very, very small dosages. Ingestion through drinking water has shown to promote cancer in the stomach, intestines and the oral cavity. In addition, drinking chromium 6-contaminated water can cause stomach irritation and toxicity in the liver among other health conditions.
That being said, between the years 2010 and 2015, chromium 6 was detected in samples taken from public water utilities located in all 50 states of the U.S. The findings: Water containing the compound at levels above health guidelines had been served to more than 230 million Americans.
How is this even possible? It’s simple; the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not defined a federal limit for hexavalent chromium. Thus, it is up to you to protect your health and the health of your family.
But how can you remove chromium 6 from your water? Learn everything you need to know here!
On This Page You Will…
|Model||Our Rating||Price||Chromium 6 Reduction||Type|
#1 RO System for Chromium 6: APEC Ultimate RO-90
|$$||98.3%||Reverse Osmosis Under Sink|
AquaTru Countertop Reverse Osmosis System
|$$$||97.2%||Reverse Osmosis Countertop|
#1 Pitcher for Chromium 6: Aquagear
Highest Chromium 6 Reduction: Big Berkey
|$$$||>99.85%||Gravity Unit (Countertop)|
Chromium 6 a.k.a. hexavalent chromium, chromium(VI) or Cr(VI) is any chemical compound that contains the element chromium in its sixth (6+) oxidation state.
Like we said, the EPA has not set a federal limit for the contaminant in drinking water at this point. There is only a standard for total chromium, so chromium 3 and chromium 6 combined. However, the consumption of chromium 3 does not even pose a health risk.
On a side note, the current allowed maximum contaminant level for total chromium is 100 ppb, whereas the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has set a public health goal for just chromium 6 of 0.02 ppb, which is expected to cause no more than one case of cancer in one million people who drink the water for a lifetime.
0.02 ppb, that’s 0.02 parts per billion or 20 parts per trillion. To put this into perspective, 1 ppb equals about a single drop of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
In other words, you need a very powerful water filter to clean your water and get even close to that threshold. Which, by the way, is the best way to deal with chromium 6 in your water at home: Filtration.
Regular activated carbon filters as they are used in most pitcher, faucet and countertop units won’t suffice. What’s needed is either an ion exchange resin or reverse osmosis technology.
Our Pro tip: Look out for water filters or systems that have earned NSF certifications that warrant effective chromium 6 reduction.
The chromium 6 reduction rate needs to be specifically stated on the testing data, e.g. a lab report. Data on total chromium won’t suffice.
Does reverse osmosis remove hexavalent chromium? It does indeed! And it does one of the best jobs of all available filtration methods. The APEC RO-90, for example, is NSF Standard 58 certified to remove 98.3% of hexavalent chromium – more on this system below.
Bad news: Neither Brita nor PUR filters are capable of chromium 6 reduction.
At least ZeroWater is NSF Standard 53 certified to reduce the metal by 99.7% on average, thanks to the ion exchange technology opposed to simple carbon filtration.
Nope, boiling water does not help with chromium 6 removal.
Drinking nothing but bottled water is no guarantee for zero chromium 6. The carcinogen is already in our groundwater and surface water sources. Also, many bottlers use plain tap water for their products.
What you can (and should) do is carefully read the bottle label. It might state chromium levels. Water that was “purified by reverse osmosis” is also a good sign.
As already mentioned, reverse osmosis filtration technology in general is very effective at removing chromium 6. This is why it’s probably safe to assume that even if an RO system is not certified for chromium removal, it will still achieve a 90+% reduction rate.
Nevertheless, we wanted to focus on systems that were specifically tested for the contaminant. This is what we came up with:
#1 RO System for Chromium 6: APEC Ultimate RO-90
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Most Thoroughly Tested System: Aquasana OptimH2O
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The APEC Ultimate RO-90 is our top choice. It provides highly pure, great tasting drinking water at a very fast flow rate compared to other RO systems, enough even at times of peak consumption to rule out long waiting times.
Apart from 98.3% chromium 6, the unit also traps rust, dust and other kinds of sediments, and it reduces chlorine taste and odor, cloudiness, arsenic 5 (99%), fluoride (93.8%), lead (96.8%), radium 226/228 (98.8%) and many other potentially harmful pollutants, especially chemicals. This has earned the system a WQA Gold Seal certification according to NSF Standard 58 for guaranteed contaminant rejection performance.
Other benefits are that
Lastly, apart from a couple of minor issues the vast majority of users are more than happy with the product.
The Aquasana OptimH2O is another reverse osmosis under sink unit that is very effective at the removal of hexavalent chromium. Average reduction rate: 97.0%.
Other than that, the system also takes care of chlorine and chloramines (97.66%), cysts, lead, fluoride, arsenic, VOCs, nitrite and nitrate, and all other stuff that you don’t want in your drinking water.
All in all, the system is capable of removing up to 99% of 88 different contaminants – not bad! In fact, the OptimH2O is not only certified to NSF Standard 58, but also to Standard 42, 53, 401 and Protocol P473, some of the most thorough testing we have ever seen.
FYI: Standard 42 tests a filter for chlorine/chloramine removal and other particulates that create unpleasant taste and odors. Standard 401 is for emerging contaminants that have found their way into our water systems only recently. Examples are certain herbicides, pesticides and pharmaceuticals. Protocol P473 measures PFOA and PFOS reduction. Both chemicals are known carcinogens.
Furthermore, a remineralization stage that enriches your water with healthy calcium, magnesium and potassium is part of the package. The system is backed by a 2-year limited warranty. And the Aquasana customer service is friendly and reliable.
The two biggest drawbacks are that the flow rate is slower than usual and the annual filter replacement costs are above the market average.
And lastly the AquaTru Tabletop 4-Stage RO Filter System and Dispenser. The reason why decided to include the model in this guide is because it’s a countertop, which might be something you prefer.
The system is very convenient to use, can be set up in less than three minutes, and it works fully automatic (what a time saver).
But what we like most is the booster pump that significantly lowers wastewater production which is good for the environment and your wallet. Another benefit is the increased flow rate.
What we don’t like is that for a small fraction of customers the system reportedly stopped working for no apparent reason after a couple of months use.
The average chromium 6 reduction is 97.2%.
Brita and PUR might not help with chromium 6. This does not mean, however, that there are no water filter pitchers out there that will!
#1 Pitcher for Chromium 6: Aquagear
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Most Thoroughly Tested Pitcher: Clearly Filtered
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With 99.4% chromium 6 reduction, the Aquagear is our favorite water filter pitcher.
What makes it stand out are the long lasting U.S. made filters (about 150 gallons or up to 3-6 months whichever comes first) and their A+ filtration performance meeting NSF Standards 42 + 53. Say goodbye to fluoride, lead, mercury, TTHMs and lots of other harmful stuff. In total, over 89 contaminants can be removed.
Above that, Aquagear provides a lifetime guarantee on the pitcher itself.
On the downside, filtration can be pretty slow depending on your water conditions and the replacement filters are costly.
Second in line is the Clearly Filtered pitcher with a chromium 6 reduction rate of 96.9% (tested).
Above that, the pitcher removes chlorine, chloramine, fluoride, microorganisms, pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, dozens of chemicals… – over 220 different contaminants in total. At the same time, the essential minerals that your body needs will be retained in the water
Filtration capacity? Around 100 gallons (replace every 4 months on average) which is not as much as you get with the Aquagear, but more contaminants will likely be removed. After all, this beast is tested to NSF Standards 42, 53, 244, 401 and 473.
Again, replacement filters are pretty expensive unfortunately. At least they are made in the USA!
Last on our list is the ZeroWater pitcher with an average chromium 6 reduction of 99.7%.
It is also famous for reducing TDS to 0 or close to it (thus the name). It’s just that we don’t consider total dissolved solids the best way to measure water purity. Why? Because TDS does not take into account any suspended substances. Consequently, water that reads “0” TDS does not mean that it’s pure H2O.
Still, independent lab tests have shown that the ZeroWater pitcher takes care of arsenic, lead, mercury, chlorine, cadmium and the like.
Changing filters is convenient which is important since the cartridges don’t last very long. We also read complaints saying that the pitcher is difficult to use and refill. Plus, it is one of the slowest you can buy.
Now, a Berkey is a very powerful gravity-fed water filter system that is highly popular among users. What’s more, Berkeys are so convenient to use. All you have to do is pour water into the upper reservoir and wait for it to flow through the filter elements into the lower chamber, kind of like a gigantic pitcher.
Speaking of size, no matter which Berkey model – Light, Go, Travel, Big, Royal, Imperial or Crown – you choose, they all make use of the same filters and therefore filtration performance is identical. For chromium 6, the average reduction is >99.85%. In addition to that, dozens of other contaminants will be removed.
What we also like is that the filters have a super high capacity of as much as 3,000 gallons reducing maintenance costs to a minimum. There’s no easier way to save money!
Bottom line: We highly recommend you check out Berkey.
For all the pros & cons, read our detailed review here.
More on Chromium 6 Filtration
Although chromium 6 only occurs naturally in some areas, it has found its way into basically all our water supply systems as industrial runoff from manufacturing facilities due to leakage, poor storage or inadequate disposal.
The metal is used in dyes, paints and inks in leather and textile manufacturing, as an anticorrosion agent in surface coatings – think paints and primers, wood preservation, and electroplating onto metal parts among other applications.
If you want to find out whether or not you are affected, you can look up your water utility in the EWG Tap Water Database. The organization also provides this interactive map showing the counties that have chromium 6 in their tap water.
Please note: Not all counties were tested (marked in gray).
According to the database, the utilities with the highest average chromium 6 concentrations in 2010-2015 were:
In case you are wondering why the government or local water utilities aren’t taking the steps necessary to tackle our apparent chromium problem, this is because it would be very costly and therefore (probably) not feasible on such a large scale, meaning nation-wide.
If you have any questions or thoughts about how to remove chromium 6 from water please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!