Decision delayed on dangerous chemical in drinking water: part 2 of Erin Brockovich's real-life unhappy ending

Following up on a previous Boing Boing post by Miles O'Brien on the real-life unhappy ending to "Erin Brockovich," here's part 2 of the PBS NewsHour story.

Miles talks to scientists, members of the chemical industry and representatives from Pacific Gas and Electric about chromium-6 contamination in American drinking water. What is a safe level for humans to consume and why has the EPA stalled on setting a federal standard?

Below, a Flickr slide show with stills shot by Miles during the shoot in Hinkley, California, where the story takes place.


  1. Hold up, let’s go back to part where stomach acidity converts chromium-6 to chromium-3.  So, taking PPIs and H2 blockers increases the possibility that humans taking these drugs to address their heartburn, will be diagnosed with cancer due to low stomach acidity and chromium-6 exposure?  Or is the acidic environment of the small intestine also sufficient?

    1. I’m going to go ahead and post here because the Slate website is having aggravating issues.

      Statistics are a tool. Like every tool they have their uses and they have their weaknesses. I don’t claim to be an expert on cancer but in full disclosure I’m one of those random cancer patients with stage 3 colon cancer at a statistically defying and baffling age of 29. My doctors refused to test me for colon related issues for 6 months because statistically speaking there was no way I had cancer at my age. They were so very wrong and I am the one living with the consequences.  I hang out with a fairly large group of breast cancer survivors and several women currently being treated for it. They are all too young to statistically recommend their first mammogram for several years but they have already had cancer whether someone statistically believes it or not. I also found out that someone that I graduated high school with from a small school has stage 3 colon cancer as well. Statistically speaking in relation to each other we are extreme statistical outliers. The odds of two 29 year olds with stage 3 colon cancer knowing each other growing up is incredibly small but it happened. But I digress, moving on.

      Johnson’s math is a limited tool that he is using to paint broad stroke conclusions. I and many of my new cancer surviving friends are living proof that statistics don’t always paint the whole picture. He clearly believes that cancer clusters do not exist and that’s his right but I wouldn’t base future environmental policy solely on it.

  2. What say we just err on the side of caution for once and just ban the poisonous stuff NOW!  If later they find out it is harmless then just reverse the ban but at least no one else was put at further risk.  Unfortunately that is not how it works.

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