City authorities in Durban, South Africa, have discovered up to 4,000 times higher concentration of the chemical hexavalent chromium, or Chrome 6, in groundwater near a factory owned by Lanxess, an offshoot of German multinational company Bayer. Chrome 6 is a carcinogen that enters the body by inhalation, ingestion or through eyes and skin. The local health department has decided to undertake tests to determine if residents of the area have developed health problems. Lanxess faces a huge clean-up cost, and even lawsuits, if the test results are not favourable for it. It will also have to pay for the tests.The company stresses the contamination isn't hazardous "as long as residents do not come into direct contact with the contaminated water". It also argues the contamination was documented before Bayer took over the plant and only further investigations can reveal its real source. Till then, it says it will follow the chemical industry's practice of fulfilling social responsibility. Hollywood movie Erin Brockovich was based on the true story of over 600 residents of Hinkley, California, winning us$333 million in damages for suffering due to Chrome 6 exposure.
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