- Safety and Health Topics
- Hexavalent Chromium
Hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)] is one of the valence states (+6) of the element chromium. It is usually produced by an industrial process. Cr(VI) is known to cause cancer. In addition, it targets the respiratory system, kidneys, liver, skin and eyes. Chromium metal is added to alloy steel to increase hardenability and corrosion resistance. A major source of worker exposure to Cr(VI) occurs during "hot work" such as welding on stainless steel and other alloy steels containing chromium metal. Cr(VI) compounds may be used as pigments in dyes, paints, inks, and plastics. It also may be used as an anticorrosive agent added to paints, primers, and other surface coatings. The Cr(VI) compound chromic acid is used to electroplate chromium onto metal parts to provide a decorative or protective coating.
Who is exposed to hexavalent chromium?
It is estimated that 558,000 workers are potentially exposed to Cr(VI) in the United States. Workers in a variety of occupations are potentially exposed to Cr(VI). Workplace exposures occur mainly in the following areas:
- Welding and other types of "hot work" on stainless steel and other metals that contain chromium
- Use of pigments, spray paints and coatings
- Operating chrome plating baths
Where is exposure to hexavalent chromium occurring?
Industrial processes that involve chromium can result in worker exposure to toxic hexavalent chromium. OSHA provides a publicly available Chemical Exposure Health Database which includes industrial hygiene sample results from OSHA inspections. This database does not include worksite inspection sample results from many of the 26 States that operated OSHA-approved State Plans or OSHA consultation visits. This data provides a snapshot of industry sectors and business subcategories where levels of airborne Cr(VI) have been found. The industry profile tables in this website are based on Cr(VI) air samples taken during OSHA inspections from 2006 to 2009. While the tables represent only a small fraction of the total number of companies in their respective industries, the results can provide insight into where workplace Cr(VI) exposure is occurring in the United States.
Requirements to protect workers from Cr(VI) exposure are addressed in specific OSHA standards for General Industry, Shipyard Employment, and Construction.
Highlights OSHA directives (instruction to OSHA staff) and letters of interpretation (official letters of interpretation of the standards) related to hexavalent chromium.
Discusses the adverse health effects associated with Cr(VI).
Exposure and Controls
Provides information on exposure limits and analytical methods used to evaluate hexavalent chromium exposure.
Provides links and references to additional resources related to hexavalent chromium.
Workers have the right to:
- Working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.
- Receive information and training (in a language and vocabulary the worker understands) about workplace hazards, methods to prevent them, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace.
- Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
- File a complaint asking OSHA to inspect their workplace if they believe there is a serious hazard or that their employer is not following OSHA's rules. OSHA will keep all identities confidential.
- Exercise their rights under the law without retaliation, including reporting an injury or raising health and safety concerns with their employer or OSHA. If a worker has been retaliated against for using their rights, they must file a complaint with OSHA as soon as possible, but no later than 30 days.
For additional information, see OSHA's Workers page.
How to Contact OSHA
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov or call OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), TTY 1-877-889-5627.
- Controlling Exposure to Hexavalent Chromium in Aerospace and Air Transport Painting. OSHA Fact Sheet (Publication 3650), (2013).
- Hexavalent Chromium Hazards in Bridge Painting. OSHA Fact Sheet (Publication 3649), (2013).
- Controlling Hexavalent Chromium Exposures during Electroplating. OSHA Fact Sheet (Publication 3648), (2013).
- Controlling Hazardous Fume and Gases during Welding. OSHA Fact Sheet (Publication 3647), (2013).
- Small Entity Compliance Guide for the Hexavalent Chromium Standards. OSHA Fact Sheet, (Publication 3320), (2006).