Hexavalent Chromium Linked to Asthma

Hexavalent chromiumResearchers from George Washington University have linked allergic asthma to hexavalent chromium.

The study found that inhaled particulates of the chemical – derived from manufacturing – can cause an inflammatory response that exacerbates allergic asthma.

This study comes in the wake of other studies that have linked hexavalent chromium to bladder cancer, cell damage and mutation among exposed workers.

Recent research from China found that workers who inhaled hexavalent chromium had significantly increased cancer risk. This study analyzed 157 electroplate factory workers along with 93 control subjects. They found that exposure to hexavalent chromium produced DNA damage among the exposed workers.

Other 2011 research from Germany found that hexavalent chromium damages the cell’s phospholipid membrane, produces oxidative stress, inflammation, mitochondria damage – all contributing to genetic mutation.

Toxic exposure to hexavalent chromium was popularized by the movie based on the protests of Erin Brockovich, who helped make public the fact that groundwater in Hinkley, CA had been contaminated with hexavalent chromium. The Hinkley contamination was said to double the levels of cancer among that population, according to one study.

Toxic exposure to hexavalent chromium through municipal water supplies is very real. In late 2010, a study by the Environmental Working Group found that 31 of 35 city water supplies tested had significant levels of hexavalent chromium, and 25 cities had levels of hexavalent chromium that were above “safe levels” of .06 part per billion – a standard being proposed in California. Federal standards are complicated by the combination of hexavalent chromium and trivalent chromium, or “total chromium.” Trivalent chromium is a mineral found in nature, necessary for glucose metabolism.

“This chemical [hexavalent chromium] has been so widely used by so many industries across the U.S. that this doesn’t surprise me,” Erin Brockovich said in response to the EWG report.

Hexavalent chromium is a byproduct of a number of manufacturing industries, including some dye-making, plastics production, tanneries and electroplating operations. These have been known to dump their hexavalent chromium into soils and streams, eventually reaching groundwater and municipal water supplies. The polluter in the Hinkley, CA case was Pacific Gas & Electric.

More information on water pollutants and water filtration strategies.

Find out more about asthma.


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Lupescu A, Jilani K, Zelenak C, Zbidah M, Qadri SM, Lang F. Hexavalent chromium-induced erythrocyte membrane phospholipid asymmetry. Biometals. 2011 Nov 13.

Halasova E, Matakova T, Musak L, Polakova V, Letkova L, Dobrota D, Vodicka P. Evaluating chromosomal damage in workers exposed to hexavalent chromium and the modulating role of polymorphisms of DNA repair genes. Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2011 Aug 20.

Stamatiou K. Hexavalent chromium and bladder cancer risk. Actas Urol Esp. 2011
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Zhang XH, Zhang X, Wang XC, Jin LF, Yang ZP, Jiang CX, Chen Q, Ren XB, Cao JZ, Wang Q, Zhu YM. Chronic occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium causes DNA damage in electroplating workers. BMC Public Health. 2011 Apr 12;11:224.

Case Adams is a California Naturopath with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. “My journey into writing about alternative medicine began about 9:30 one evening after I finished with a patient at the clinic I practiced at over a decade ago. I had just spent the last two hours explaining how diet, sleep and other lifestyle choices create health problems and how changes in these, along with certain herbal medicines and other natural strategies can radically yet safely turn ones health around. As I drove home that night, I realized I needed to get this knowledge out to more people. So I began writing about health with a mission to reach those who desperately need this information. The strategies in my books and articles are backed by scientific evidence along with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years.” Case connects with the elements by surfing, hiking and being a beach bum.

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