Some major industrial sources of hexavalent chromium are:
Workplace exposure to hexavalent chromium may cause the following health effects:
Breathing in high levels of hexavalent chromium can cause irritation to the nose and throat. Symptoms may include runny nose, sneezing, coughing, itching and a burning sensation.
Repeated or prolonged exposure can cause sores to develop in the nose and result in nosebleeds. If the damage is severe, the nasal septum (wall separating the nasal passages) develops a hole in it (perforation).
Breathing small amounts of hexavalent chromium even for long periods does not cause respiratory tract irritation in most people.
Some employees become allergic to hexavalent chromium so that inhaling chromate compounds can cause asthma symptoms such as wheezing and shortness of breath.
Some employees can also develop an allergic skin reaction, called allergic contact dermatitis. This occurs from handling liquids or solids containing hexavalent chromium. Once an employee becomes allergic, brief skin contact causes swelling and a red, itchy rash that becomes crusty and thickened with prolonged exposure. Allergic contact dermatitis is long-lasting and more severe with repeated skin contact.
Direct skin contact with hexavalent chromium can cause a non-allergic skin irritation. Contact with non-intact skin can also lead to chrome ulcers. These are small crusted skin sores with a rounded border. They heal slowly and leave scars.
Employees can inhale airborne hexavalent chromium as a dust, fume or mist while:
Skin exposure can occur during direct handling of hexavalent chromium-containing solutions, coatings, and cements.
The new OSHA workplace standard requires employers to:
For more complete information:
U.S. Department of Labor
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