Get Started with a Free Water Consultation

Causes, Effects and Solutions for Chromium in Water


Have you ever heard of chromium in drinking water? 

Chromium is a trace element that can be picked up by water as it flows through nature. There aren’t significant effects on your home or health unless you’ve been exposed to high levels for a long period of time. However, you may still want it out of your water supply — that’s where a reverse osmosis drinking water filtration system may be able to help.*

Here’s everything you need to know about chromium water contamination, testing and removal.

Looking for an easy way to test your water?
Learn more about our free, in-home water testing and schedule your appointment here.

Effects of Chromium in Water

There are two types of chromium: chromium-3 (known as trivalent) and chromium-6 (known as hexavalent). Chromium-3, found in food and supplements, is a small but necessary part of your diet and is not toxic. Chromium-6, however, is typically found in pollution from industrial processes; it is toxic and carcinogenic when inhaled.

Because it’s tasteless and odorless, chromium in water is difficult to detect. On top of that, this mineral only has health impacts after long-term exposure or extremely high levels of contamination, so you’re not likely to notice significant side effects.

Furthermore, chromium — unlike copper or iron — won’t leave stains on your sinks, fixtures or water-using appliances. That means you may not even realize you have a chromium problem. Still, it’s helpful to know what this contaminant is capable of.

Long-Term Health Effects of Chromium

The human body needs chromium — anywhere from 20 to 45 micrograms per day depending on sex, age and other health factors. Because no significant toxicity has been reported from this mineral in everyday sources, no maximum recommended amount of chromium in the daily diet has been established.

However, long-term exposure to hexavalent chromium has been associated with potential skin reactions, while excessive chromium intake (usually in the form of supplements) can harm the kidneys, liver and gastrointestinal system. Additionally, inhalation of hexavalent chromium has been shown to cause certain cancers, while oral ingestion has caused cancer in lab animals. The best way to check total chromium levels in your water supply is to have a professional water test conducted.

Chromium Water Testing

Water testing is your way of taking action against all the substances that could be in your drinking water, including high chromium concentrations. Here’s what to know:

What Are Chromium Water Tests?

Although some DIY water tests may check for the presence of minerals like chromium, this isn’t always your best option. DIY water tests can be inaccurate or create results that are difficult to read. This could lead to incorrect assumptions about your water quality. In most cases, it’s best to leave water testing to the experts.

How To Test for Chromium in Your Water

During a professional water test, an expert will test your water for a variety of substances, including chlorine, water hardness and total dissolved solids, or TDS. When you have concerns about more complex elements like copper, bacteria and chromium, your water sample can be sent to a laboratory, like Culligan’s IL EPA-certified lab, for further analysis.

Are There Acceptable Levels of Chromium in Drinking Water?

Water standards like the Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum contaminant levels are enforceable (not to be confused with maximum contaminant level goals, which aren’t enforceable). This means public water systems need to take action if those levels are exceeded. Therefore, standards like these suggest the “acceptable level” of chromium in drinking water is anything under 0.1 milligrams per liter.

Similarly, the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality, establish a maximum acceptable concentration of 0.05 milligrams per liter of total chromium.

However, keep in mind that such guidelines don’t protect your water supply in all cases. Here are two major examples:

  • A test conducted by your public water utility at their location wouldn’t tell you if chromium enters the water supply after treatment — for example, when traveling through your home’s plumbing or fixtures.
  • Private well users aren’t served by the public water system, which means there’s no municipal entity testing for chromium at the water source.

Chromium Water Solutions

If a water test tells you that there is chromium in your water supply, here’s what to do next:

How to Remove Chromium From Water

Boiling water won’t remove chromium, and neither will running your water to flush the pipes. The most effective way to tackle chromium concentrations is water treatment.

Chromium Water Filters

A high-quality water filter solution is the best way to address chromium in your water. Look for a water filtration system specifically certified to reduce chromium in your water. For example, Culligan’s Aquasential® Smart Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Filtration System is tested and third-party certified for the reduction of hexavalent and trivalent chromium.

What Else To Know About Chromium

What else should you know about chromium? Here are a few important facts:

Types of Chromium

As noted, the are two types of chromium: trivalent chromium and hexavalent chromium. While trivalent chromium is an essential mineral that is naturally present at low levels in a wide variety of foods, hexavalent chromium is a chemical compound typically produced industrial processes; it is toxic and carcinogenic when inhaled.

How Does Chromium Get Into Water?

Although chromium is present in nature, man-made products often cause chromium contamination. These sources can include:

  • Industrial waste leakage
  • Some plumbing fixtures
  • Wood preservatives
  • Some dyes and paints

Does All Tap Water Have Chromium in It?

Like many substances, the amount of chromium in tap water depends on a variety of factors. Precipitation rates, local geology, nearby industrial operations and even your home’s plumbing play a role in determining whether chromium can enter your water supply.

Cities With Notorious Chromium Water Problems

Chromium contamination was first brought to wide attention by the biographical film “Erin Brockovich,” in which a legal clerk from Hinkley, Calif., successfully sues a gas and electric company for contaminating drinking water with hexavalent chromium. Since then, reports by the Environmental Working Group found that over 230 million Americans in all 50 U.S. states had been supplied with drinking water contaminated with chromium. Cities with particularly high contamination levels included:

  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Houston, TX
  • St. Louis, MO
  • Los Angeles, CA

In similar studies across Canadian provinces and territories, chromium levels were mostly below detection level.

Test for Chromium in Your Water

Chromium may not have the same reputation as other potential contaminants like lead, but it can still cause its fair share of problems. If you want to feel better about the safety of your drinking water, or if you spot any discoloration, off smells or unusual odors, it’s time for a water test.

Schedule your free, in-home water test and consultation today.

*Contaminants may not be present in your water.

Find A Location Near Me


Schedule Your Free
In-Home Water Test

Get better water in your home by scheduling an appointment with your local Culligan Water Expert.

Our Products

blue wave
Water Softeners

Water Softeners

With any of our soft water systems, get more out of your water-using appliances while spending less on energy and detergent.

View Products

Water Delivery

Water Delivery

There’s never been a better time to enjoy the convenience of scheduled bottled water deliveries from the Culligan® Water Experts

View Products

Water Filtration Systems

Water Filtration Systems

Culligan's water filtration systems have improved water quality for thousands of families worldwide.

View Products