Researchers unveil new way to clean chromium from drinking water

An expert from Washington University has unveiled a novel method to convert the dangerous chromium-6 the cancer-causing chemical in drinking water into common chromium-3 for making it safer for human consumption. By nature, chromium is a tasteless element and found mostly in rocks, soil, and volcanic dust. There are two major forms of chromium in the environment — Trivalent chromium (chromium-3) and Hexavalent chromium (chromium-6). The credit for converting harmful chromium- 6 into chromium-3 goes to an engineer with Washington University.

“The health effects are quite well-known. It’s very potent as an inhaled contaminant, but in drinking water chromium-6 definitely has a negative impact on human health,” said Daniel Giammar, Professor of Environmental Engineering at the School of Engineering & Applied Science. His new method departs from conventional ways of converting chromium-6 to chromium-3 using iron. The research was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The paper explains how Giammar and his team used electricity under a process called electrocoagulation.

Giammar said electrocoagulation was the new approach used in introducing iron into the water. He explained how the conventional method was dispensed with by using two pieces of iron metal and applying a voltage between them for adding iron to converting the chromium-6 content. Chromium-3 is indispensable to human health and obtained from fruits, vegetables, grains, meat, and multi-vitamins. chromium-6, coming mostly from industrial production harms both soil and groundwater.