No ‘safe’ limits with carcinogens

Chromium: A naturally occurring mineral, it is odorless, hard and steel gray. Depleted chromium: The second most stable form of chromium, it is rarely encountered in nature and is usually formed as a result of human activity. It is toxic and carcinogenic. «And yet we are still talking about permissible levels of depleted chromium in water. This shows a complete lack of understanding of the problem on the part of the authorities,» said Nikoloupoulou-Statmati. She was speaking on the sidelines of the conference, in reference to a major public health hazard: the presence of depleted chromium in drinking water in Oinofyta and elsewhere in Greece. «It is unacceptable to talk about limits when we are dealing with a carcinogenic substance.» The Union of Greek Chemists takes the same line in a report on the danger of depleted chromium in drinking water that it prepared on behalf of Oinofyta municipality. «Waste containing depleted chromium must undergo processing that will transform into an insoluble weaker form of chromium,» the experts wrote, recommending that the water supply be cut off immediately. They also pointed out that irrigating methods which create airborne waste must be accompanied by protective measures. They go on to say that measurements must be taken in the soil when crops are grown in order to find out whether the depleted chromium has had toxic effects on the plants. The report recommends other measures: systematic monitoring of bore water quality (every month), and the preparation of a hydro-geological study. The experts advise local authorities to review all their environmental studies and the permits of industries that may produce waste containing chromium.