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Chromium is a steel gray, lustrous, hard metal extracted from chromite ores. In 2011, US production (PDF) of chromium was estimated at 160,000 metric tons, coming almost entirely from recycling stainless steel scraps. In addition, the U.S. imported 430,000 metric tons of chromium, primarily from South Africa, Kazakhstan, Russia and China. Chromium is valued for its high corrosion resistance and hardness. It is most often used as an alloy (ferrochrome) in stainless steel and in chrome plating. In addition, chromium is used in the pigment and dye, tanning, and glassmaking industries, in reflective paints, for wood preservation, to anodize aluminum, to produce synthetic rubies, as a catalyst in chemical manufacturing and as an isotope in medicine. Elemental chromium is seldom found naturally in the environment. The oxidized states of chromium III and chromium VI are the most important forms of the chemical. Chromium III is an essential trace element in humans but chronic exposure may be harmful. Chromium VI (hexavalent chromium) is the oxidized state of principal concern in occupational safety and health and the environment because of its extreme toxicity and designation as a human carcinogen. OSHA's hexavalent chromium safety and health topics page provides comprehensive information on health effects, exposure controls, OSHA standards, and additional resources on this toxic substance.

Who is exposed to the common forms of chromium?

Occupational exposures to chromium occur primarily in the metal and chemical manufacturing industries, although exposures are also possible in other industries where chromium compounds are used.

Occupational exposure to chromium can occur in the following industries and operations:

  • Stainless steel welding [Cr(VI)]
  • Chromate production [Cr(VI)]
  • Chrome plating [Cr(VI)]
  • Ferrochrome industry [Cr(III) and Cr(VI)]
  • Chrome pigments [Cr(III) and Cr(VI)]
  • Leather tanning [mostly Cr(III)]

Occupations that may involve chromium exposures include:

  • Painters [Cr(III) and Cr(VI)]
  • Abrasive blasting workers [Cr(III) and Cr(VI)]
  • Workers involved in the maintenance and servicing of copying machines and the disposal of some toner powders from copying machines [Cr(VI)]
  • Battery makers [Cr(VI)]
  • Candle makers [Cr(III) and Cr(VI)]
  • Dye makers [Cr(III)]
  • Printers [Cr(III) and Cr(VI)]
  • Rubber makers [Cr(III) and Cr(VI)]
  • Cement workers [Cr(III) and Cr(VI)]
  • Workers involved in welding, cutting, brazing, soldering, torch and other hot work operations. [Cr(III) and Cr(VI)]

OSHA sets enforceable permissible exposure limits (PELs) to protect workers from the health effects of exposure to chromium metal and various chromium compounds under 1910.1000 Table Z-1 Limits for Air Contaminants. The most toxic form of chromium is hexavalent chromium. OSHA requirements for protecting workers from hexavalent chromium exposure are found in specific OSHA standards covering general industry (Chromium (VI) - 1910.1026), shipyards (Chromium (VI) - 1915.1026), and construction (Chromium (VI) - 1926.1126).

Additional Resources for Chromium
How do I find out about employer responsibilities and worker rights?

Workers have a right to a safe workplace. The law requires employers to provide their employees with working conditions that are free of known dangers.

OSHA can help answer questions or concerns from employers and workers. To reach your regional or area OSHA office, go to OSHA's Regional & Area Offices web page or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).

Small Business employers may contact OSHA's free and confidential on-site consultation service to help determine whether there are hazards at their worksites and work with OSHA on correcting any identified hazards. On-site consultations services are separate from enforcement activities and do not result in penalties or citations. To contact OSHA's free consultation service, go to OSHA's On-site Consultation web page or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) and press number 4.

Workers may file a complaint to have OSHA inspect their workplace if they believe that their employer is not following OSHA standards or that there are serious hazards. Employees can file a complaint with OSHA by calling 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) or by printing the complaint form and mailing or faxing to your local OSHA area office. Complaints that are signed by an employee are more likely to result in an inspection.

If you think your job is unsafe or you have questions, contact OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742). It's confidential. We can help. For other valuable worker protection information, such as Workers' Rights, Employer Responsibilities, and other services OSHA offers, visit OSHA's Workers' page.

Primary Uses for Chromium

  • Stainless steel
  • Heat-resistant alloys
  • Nonferrous alloys
  • Plating
  • Catalysts
  • Leather Processing
  • Paints and Coatings
  • Refractories
  • Pigments

Emerging Use for Chromium

  • Iron-Chromium flow batteries used for energy storage in renewable energy generation
  • Superalloys

*Accessibility Assistance: Contact OSHA's Directorate of Technical Support and Emergency Management at (202) 639-2300 for assistance accessing PDF materials.

All other documents, that are not PDF materials or formatted for the web, are available as Microsoft Office® formats and videos and are noted accordingly. If additional assistance is needed with reading, reviewing or accessing these documents or any figures and illustrations, please also contact OSHA's Directorate of Technical Support and Emergency Management at (202) 639-2300.

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