Hexavalent Chromium – Industrial Hygiene Issues and Concerns

Hexavalent Chromium – Industrial Hygiene Issues and Concerns

Hexavalent chromium has been found to be extremely toxic.  It is manmade and widely created in many different industries.  Employees can be exposed to hexavalent chromium during the following;

  • Production of chromate pigments and powders; chromic acid; chromium catalysts; dyes; and coatings.
  • Working near chromium electroplating.
  • Welding fume when working with stainless steel, high chromium alloys, and chrome-coated metals.
  • Applying and removing chromate-containing paints and other surface coatings.
  • Production and use of fungicides and wood preservatives.


Industrial sources of hexavalenet chromium include the following:

  • Chromate pigments in dyes, paints, inks and plastics.
  • Chromates added as anti-corrosive agents in paints primers and other surface coatings.
  • Chrome plating by depositing chromium metal onto an item’s surface using a solution of chromic acid.
  • Particles released during smelting of ferro-chromium ore.
  • Fume from welding stainless steel or nonferrous chromium alloys.
  • Impurities present in Portland cement.


Hexchrome routes of entry include inhalation, ingestion, and skin contact.  Symptoms related to hexavalent chromium include:

Nose, throat, lungs—

  • Runny nose, sneezing, coughing, itching and a burning sensation
  • Prolonged exposure can cause sores in the nose and even a perforation in the septum, respiratory tract irritation, and asthmatic symptoms.

Skin —

  • Allergic skin reaction causing rash and itch (from handling liquids and solids)

Exposed personnel can develop lung cancer, irritation to the nose, throat, and lungs, irritation and damage to the eyes and skin, and liver and kidney damage.

OSHA standards require a time-weighted average of 0.5 micrograms per cubic meter of air per 8 hour work day.  Periodic monitoring may be required.  Appropriate personal protective equipment must be provided.

Exposure monitoring for inhalation is accomplished through employee air sampling over a shift.  Then an 8-hour Time Weighted Average is determined.  DirectCIH can conduct the air sampling, assess the exposure paths and risks, and help to determine methods of reducing concentrations of hexavalent chromium.