Toxicologist rips chromium 6 study

Tim Willert

A toxicologist who resigned under protest from a blue-ribbon panel

charged with determining the dangers of chromium 6 in drinking water,

including Burbank’s, testified last week the panel’s report should


not be used as a basis for establishing public-health standards.

Joseph Froines, a professor of toxicology for the UCLA School of

Public Health, and the first scientist named to the panel, told a

hearing of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee that the


state- sponsored study was too limited in its scope and depth and

didn’t acknowledge the uncertainties of its research. He also said

there were undisclosed conflicts of interest among some scientists

contributing to the report.

The University of California study -- released in August 2001 --

showed no basis for considering ingested chromium 6 a carcinogen. The

study prompted the California EPA’s Office of Environmental Health

Hazard Assessment to lift the state’s public-health goal of 2.5 parts


per billion for the heavy metal in drinking water.

“Chromium 6 is a carcinogen, there is no question about it,”

Froines told a panel of state senators. “This report should not be

used as the basis for the California Environmental Protection

Agency’s policy on chromium 6 via the oral route of exposure.”

The committee, led by state Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacra- mento),

is looking into whether scientists manipulated the study on behalf of

Pacific Gas and Electric. An attorney representing 900 people in a


class-action lawsuit against PG&E;, told the committee, which included

state Sen. Jack Scott (D-Glendale), that one of the scientists who

participated in the study and several others who contributed to it

were PG&E; consultants paid thousands of dollars to testify in court

on behalf of the company.

“Industry very clearly opposed the proposed public-health goals,”

attorney Gary Praglin told the committee. “The reason they did is

that it costs a lot of money to clean up [contaminated groundwater].”

Until a new public-health standard for allowable levels of

chromium 6 in drinking water is established, EPA officials have

determined the state standard of 50 parts per billion is “health