Can my water give me cancer?


Last February, the residents of Marseille’s Saint-Louis neighbourhood were informed that the water they were using to fill their swimming pools and water their gardens was polluted with chromium VI, and had been for six years already.

Luckily, the drinking water had not been affected, only the underground water systems, which mainly fill private wells. Nevertheless, chromium VI, also called hexavalent chromium, is still a highly toxic substance and this remains a cause for concern. Generally originating from industrial waste, this chemical causes cancer when inhaled and can be toxic to the stomach, liver, kidneys and blood cells if ingested.

What is even more worrying is that the town council and prefecture were allegedly well aware of this problem as far back as 2013. At that time, the level of chromium measured in the underground water was 127 mg/l, in other words more than a thousand times over the authorised concentration limit of 0.1 mg/l. In 2015, the prefecture instructed the town council to implement restrictions on use of well water, a restriction that was not put in place until 6 years after the first warning.

In order to fully highlight the risks to the population, deputy mayor François-Michel Lambert has submitted a written request to French Health Minister Olivier Véran to instigate an epidemiological and toxicology investigation, which is now underway. We’ll just have to wait for the results.