(StraightNews.org) – Research in California has found that wildfires may be linked to cancer. Scientists tested soil following fires in the north of the state and found the presence of hexavalent chromium – a highly carcinogenic metal. According to the research published in the scientific journal Nature Connections, fires appear to turn benign metals into cancer-causing chromium.
Scott Fendorf, professor of earth system science at Stanford University and author of the study, said, “I think it changes our risk analysis when you think about exposure to wildfire smoke.” He added that wildfires are occurring more frequently, so people are exposed to higher levels of “materials that are going to be more toxic.”
The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies hexavalent chromium as a group one carcinogen, meaning it is known to cause cancer in human beings. Large amounts are linked with lung cancer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which tested the substance for toxicity. Research carried out on mice found that the animals developed tumors in their mouths, intestines, and livers.
Hexavalent chromium was the pollutant featured in the movie “Erin Brokovich,” which depicted a class action lawsuit taken by residents of Hinckley, California, against Pacific Gas and Electric and was settled for $333 million. The agreement, finalized in Los Angeles in 2008, noted that 104 residents were exposed to water containing the carcinogen and potentially hundreds more stretching back decades.
In May, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) passed new regulations phasing out the use of hexavalent chromium in chrome plating and identified it as the second most potent cancer-causing substance yet discovered.
“Decorative chrome platers now have options to transition to less toxic alternatives without sacrificing quality or function,” said CARB Chair Liane Randolph.
National Geographic says that while the number of wildfires in California has decreased since the 1980s and 1990s, their size has grown, and since the 1980s, an extra 10 million acres of US forests have been lost.
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