Hexavalent Chromium

OWLS™ Water Education: Hexavalent Chromium

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Hexavalent chromium is known to cause cancer, reproductive harm and other severe health effects, there is no national or state drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium. Therefore, water agencies don’t have to comprehensively monitor for or remove hexavalent chromium before it comes out of the tap.

Communities adjacent to industrial facilities using hexavalent chromium or Superfund sites, such as low income communities like Hinkley and communities of color are among those most highly exposed to hexavalent chromium pollution. People can be exposed to hexavalent chromium by drinking contaminated water, eating contaminated food, by inhaling it, or by exposure to contaminated soils.

Hexavalent chromium usually enters the drinking water supply by running off from industrial operations into surface waters or leaching from soil into groundwater.

Hexavalent chromium is used for the production of stainless steel, textile dyes, wood preservation, leather tanning, and as an anti-corrosive as well as a variety of niche uses. Due to its wide use by industry, hexavalent chromium is a common pollutant found at contaminated sites and has been documented at approximately two-thirds of Superfund sites.

Read more about the health impacts of hexavalent chromium in a blog by Sarah Janssen, senior scientist in NRDC’s Public Health Program: http://bit.ly/Pn0FEU

Hexavalent Chromium (Cr(VI))

Overview

Hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) compounds are a group of chemical substances that contain the metallic element chromium in its positive-6 valence (hexavalent) state. Occupational exposures to Cr(VI) occur during the production of stainless steel, chromate chemicals, and chromate pigments. Cr(VI) exposures also occur during other work activities such as stainless steel welding, thermal cutting, and chrome plating.

NIOSH considers all Cr(VI) compounds to be potential occupational carcinogens. Occupational exposure to Cr(VI) compounds is associated with lung, nasal, and sinus cancer. Other respiratory effects include nasal irritation and ulceration, and perforation of the nasal septum and eardrum. Dermal exposure to Cr(VI) compounds can cause skin irritation, ulceration, sensitization, and allergic contact dermatitis.

NIOSH Draft Criteria Document Update

The NIOSH draft document “NIOSH Criteria Document Update: Occupational Exposure to Hexavalent Chromium” provides a review of the scientific literature and an update of NIOSH policies on occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium compounds including an assessment of: (1) critical animal, human, and in vitro studies on occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium; (2) relevant quantitative risk assessments about occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium; (3) appropriate methods for sampling and analysis of hexavalent chromium compounds in the workplace; (4) basis for the NIOSH revised Recommended Exposure Limit for hexavalent chromium compounds; and (5) other NIOSH recommendations for protecting workers from occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium. The external review draft of the NIOSH document, public comments, and peer review comments received are available on the NIOSH Docket Office Number 144 Web page. The NIOSH draft document has been revised based on the comments received during the public review and peer review comment periods. It is being prepared for the final steps of the NIOSH review and clearance process prior to publication.

NIOSHTIC-2 Search

NIOSHTIC-2 search results on Hexavalent Chromium
NIOSHTIC-2 is a searchable bibliographic database of occupational safety and health publications, documents, grant reports, and journal articles supported in whole or in part by NIOSH.

NIOSH Resources

NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards

Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health (IDLH) Chromic acid and Chromates

NIOSH 2002 Comments on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Request for Information on Occupational Exposure to Hexavalent Chromium. Adobe PDF file [PDF – 208 KB]

Criteria for a recommended standard: Welding, brazing, and thermal cutting [1988]
NIOSH Publication No. 88-110

Current Intelligence Bulletin 4: Chrome pigment [1976]

Criteria for a Recommended Standard: Occupational Exposure to Chromium (VI) [1975]
HEW (NIOSH) Publication No. 76-129

Criteria for a Recommended Standard: Occupational Exposure to Chromic Acid [1973]
NIOSH Publication No. 73-11021

Sampling and Analysis

NIOSH Manual of Analytical Methods (NMAM) (3rd Supplement)
NIOSH Publication No. 2003-154 (2003)

OSHA Chemical Sampling Information: Chromium (VI)External Web Site Icon

Selected Publications

Ashley K, Applegate GT, Marcy AD, Drake PL, Pierce PA, Carabin N, Demange M [2009]. Evaluation of sequential extraction procedures for soluble and insoluble hexavalent chromium compounds in workplace air samples. J Environ Monit 11(2):318-325.

Ashley K, Howe AM, Demange M, Nygren O [2003]. Sampling and analysis considerations for the determination of hexavalent chromium in workplace air. J Environ Monit 5(5):707-716.

Blade LM, Yencken MS, Wallace ME, Catalano JD, Khan A, Topmiller JL, Shulman SA, Martinez A, Crouch KG, Bennett JS [2007]. Hexavalent chromium exposures and exposure-control technologies in American enterprise: results of a NIOSH field research study. J Occup Environ Hyg 4(8):596-618.

Boiano JM, Wallace ME, Sieber WK, Groff JH, Wang J, Ashley K [2000]. Comparison of three sampling and analytical methods for the determination of airborne hexavalent chromium. J Environ Monit 2(4):329-33.

Hazelwood KJ, Drake PL, Ashley K, Marcy D [2004]. Field method for the determination of insoluble or total hexavalent chromium in workplace air. J Occup Environ Hyg 1(9):613-619.

Keane M, Stone S, Chen B, Slaven J, Schwegler-Berry D, Antonini J [2009]. Hexavalent chromium content in stainless steel welding fumes is dependent on the welding process and shield gas type. J Environ Monit 11(2):418-424.

Park RM, Bena JF, Stayner LT, Smith RJ, Gibb HJ, Lees PSJ [2004]. Hexavalent chromium and lung cancer in the chromate industry: a quantitative risk assessment. Risk Anal 2004 24(5):1099-1108.

Park RM, Stayner LT [2006]. A search for thresholds and other nonlinearities in the relationship between hexavalent chromium and lung cancer. Risk Anal 26(1):79-88.

Health Hazard Evaluations

The Hazard Evaluations and Technical Assistance Branch (HETAB) of NIOSH conducts field investigations of possible health hazards in the workplace. HETAB has conducted many field investigations of potential occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium. For more information on the health hazard evaluation (HHE) program and to search for HHEs involving hexavalent chromium exposure link to: Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) home page.

Other Resources

OSHA Safety and Health Topics: Hexavalent ChromiumExternal Web Site Icon

OSHA Small Entity Compliance Guide for the Hexavalent Chromium Standards Adobe PDF fileExternal Web Site Icon

OSHA Guidance: Preventing Skin Problems from Working with Portland CementExternal Web Site Icon

OSHA Fact Sheet: Health Effects of Hexavalent Chromium Adobe PDF file [PDF – 20 KB]External Web Site Icon

Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry (ATSDR) – ToxFAQs: Chromium VI
En español

ATSDR Case Studies in Environmental Medicine (CSEM)

ATSDR Toxicological Profile for Chromium, Draft for Public Comment, 2008

U.S. EPA Toxicological Review of Hexavalent Chromium (1998) Adobe PDF file [PDF – 512 KB]External Web Site Icon

U.S. EPA Integrated Risk Information System Information on Chromium (VI) [1998]External Web Site Icon

National Toxicology Program 12th Report on Carcinogens: Chromium Hexavalent Compounds External Web Site Icon

International Agency for Research on Cancer Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, Vol. 49: Chromium, Nickel and Welding (1990)External Web Site Icon

U.S. Department of Energy Safety Bulletin 2006-01: Hexavalent Chromium (Update) Adobe PDF file [PDF –

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