EPA Designation Regulated
EPA Classification Inorganic Chemicals
EPA Levels 1,2 0.1 MCLG (mg/L)
0.1 MCLG (mg/L)
Alternative Names hexavalent
Sources Discharge from steel and pulp mills; erosion of natural deposits
Chromium is a metal that pollutes drinking water due to discharge from steel and pulp mills and erosion of natural deposits.


Chromium is an odorless and tasteless metallic element. Chromium is found naturally in rocks, plants, soil and volcanic dust, humans and animals. The most common forms of chromium that occur in natural waters in the environment are trivalent chromium (chromium-3), and hexavalent chromium (chromium-6).


Metallic chromium is used mainly for making steel and other alloys. Chromium compounds in either the chromium-3 or chromium-6 forms are used for chrome plating, dyes and pigments, leather and wood preservati

Health Effects

Chromium-3 is a nutritionally essential element in humans and is often added to vitamins as a dietary supplement. Chromium-3 has relatively low toxicity and would be a concern in drinking water only at very high levels of contamination; Chromium-6 is more toxic and poses potential health risks. People who use water containing total chromium in excess of the maximum contaminant level (MCL) over many years could experience allergic dermatitis. In a September 2010 draft human health assessment for chromium-6, EPA proposed to classify chromium-6 as likely to be carcinogenic to humans when ingested. The Agency continues to work towards completing the human health assessment and making a final determination about the carcinogenicity of chromium-6. When the assessment is completed, EPA will determine whether the drinking water standard for total chromium needs to be revised.

EPA Data Source: Chromium

EPA Definitions:

1Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) - The level of a contaminant in drinking water below which there is no known or expected risk to health. MCLGs allow for a margin of safety and are non-enforceable public health goals.

Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) - The highest level of a contaminant that is allowed in drinking water. MCLs are set as close to MCLGs as feasible using the best available treatment technology and taking cost into consideration. MCLs are enforceable standards.

Maximum Residual Disinfectant Level Goal (MRDLG) - The level of a drinking water disinfectant below which there is no known or expected risk to health. MRDLGs do not reflect the benefits of the use of disinfectants to control microbial contaminants.

(TT) Treatment Technique - A required process intended to reduce the level of a contaminant in drinking water.

Maximum Residual Disinfectant Level (MRDL) - The highest level of a disinfectant allowed in drinking water. There is convincing evidence that addition of a disinfectant is necessary for control of microbial contaminants.

2 Units are in milligrams per liter (mg/L) unless otherwise noted. Milligrams per liter are equivalent to parts per million.