Legislators investigate cancer-causing toxin found in water, advance firefighters' health care bill

Source: Courier Post
Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, asked a state water quality board Wednesday to set stringent levels for hexavalent chromium after a report released this week showed the metal contaminating more than 150 water systems throughout the state.
Meanwhile, Sen. Kevin O’Toole, R-Wayne, has called for a legislative hearing to determine the steps that need to be taken “to protect our residents.”
It is unclear how much hexavalent chromium needs to be consumed to increase someone’s cancer risk. The Environmental Working Group, which released its report on Wednesday, said both the science and political will is lagging on determining just how toxic the metal is.
New Jersey uses the federal standard of 100 parts per billion for “total chromium” in drinking water, which includes both toxic hexavalent chromium and its benign cousin trivalent chromium. Using that standard, drinking two liters of water contaminated with .07 parts per billion of hexavalent chromium daily for 70 years would create a one-in-a-million risk of cancer.

While the risk is extremely low, it can be compounded with exposure to other cancer-causing substances along with genetic susceptibility to the disease among many factors.

Lesniak said the report should spur the institute to immediately revive its research on hexavalent chromium.
“This is scientific evidence that potentially-dangerous amounts of a known carcinogen are in more than 150 water systems in New Jersey,” he said. “It would be a colossal failure of government to refuse to take the needed actions to keep our drinking water clean and safe.”
New Jersey’s water, which tends to be more acidic than other states, can extract chromium from rock formations as it flows into aquifers and wells. While popular carbon-based filtration systems remove many metals from tap water, they do not effectively filter hexavalent chromium. A “reverse osmosis” system, costing anywhere from $100 to more than $500, can remove the metal, according to the Environmental Working Group.


A bill spurred by the 2014 death of a Cinnaminson firefighter cleared an Assembly panel last week.
The legislation, backed by South Jersey lawmakers Troy Singleton and Herb Conaway, would continue health coverage for the families of firefighters and first responders, even if their death did not occur in the line of duty.
In November 2014, Cinnaminson Fire Lt. Chris Hunter died of a cardiac event in his home shortly after his shift ended. But because his death was not considered in the line of duty, his family was not eligible for continued medical coverage.
Bill A-319 offers families the opportunity to apply for reimbursement of COBRA costs for six months, if the dependents were covered through the State Health Benefits Program or a similar program offered through the responder’s employer. The bill was advanced by the Assembly Labor Committee.

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