OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.


August 25, 1987

Mr. Desmond Bond
Desmond Bond, Inc.
Energy & Environment
3940 Tallowtree Place
Fairfax, Virginia 22033

Dear Mr. Bond:

This is in response to your letter of August 6, regarding the presence of chromium in monocomponent photocopier toner.

Our New York Regional Office is still investigating your previous letter alleging that toner cartridges manufactured and sold by Canon U.S.A., Inc., contain chromium. Until the investigation is completed we cannot give you a final response.

If our investigation indicates that the product contains hexavalent chromium and that employees covered by the standard are potentially exposed, then the toner would be subject to the requirements of the Hazard Communication Standard. Under the Hazard Communication Standard a warning of carcinogenicity may be required on the label. In addition, the material safety data sheet would need to address the carcinogenic effects of hexavalent chromium compounds to detail.

As soon as our investigation is completed we will contact you again with a full response. If you have any further questions in the interim, please feel free to contact me again.


John A. Pendergrass
Assistant Secretary

[Reviewed; consistent with current policy 2/11/2008]

August 6, 1987

Mr. John Pendergrass
Assistant Secretary
Occupational Safety and Health
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20210

Dear Mr. Pendergrass:

On June 3, 1987, I wrote to you regarding the presence of chromium in monocomponent photocopier toner. Since then, my client has continued to fund analyses by independent analytical laboratories to confirm the initial findings which I transmitted to you. This letter is to advise you of the outcome of that effort and to reiterate the inquiries of my earlier letter.

Subsequent analyses have confirmed the presence of chromium in samples of a monocomponent photocopier toner manufactured by one of my client's competitors, and in a similar product formerly manufactured by my client. The levels of hexavalent chromium detected in these analyses vary widely, but have, in general, been considerably lower than the level presented in the initial laboratory report (copy already forwarded to you).

Uncertainly as to the precise quantity of hexavalent chromium in the samples has arisen for a number of reasons, but chiefly, (i) because of the nature of the chromium substance itself, a chelate, and, (ii) because of the absence of a testing protocol that can detect with certainly all hexavalent chromium present.

Nevertheless, the hazards involved with use of toners which contain chromium do remain a subject of great concern. The enclosed toner label (Attachment 1) specifies that the Hazardous Ingredient in the toner is a chromium salt. The particular chromium species bears the CAS No. 72869-85-3; the name given to that substance, as officially noted by Chemical Abstracts Service, is "chromate." That group of chromium salts (chromates) is declared by authoritative toxicity sources to be carcinogenic. (See Attachment 2.)

My client, has ceased manufacture and marketing of the chromium-containing toner, and is attempting to market a toner which does not contain chromium. Therefore, my client remains seriously interested in obtaining OSHA's advice concerning the Agency's Hazard Communication requirements. It would be most helpful to my client's planning basis if, using the attached label (Attachment 1) and MSDS (Attachment 3) as examples, you would advise specifically what information OSHA does require for a product label and MSDS for a chromium-containing toner.

I do look forward to receiving your Agency's response to the foregoing issues concerning chromium, labeling, and MSDS as soon as possible.


Desmond Bond


In addition to concerns regarding the chromium in the chemical species named on the label (Salicylic Acid Chromium Chelate) the following facts should be noted:




  • Salicylic Acid Chromium Chelate is a derivative of salicylic acid. Salicylic acid (CAS #69-72-7, formula C7H6O3)is a fire and explosion hazard, a dermal and an ocular irritant, and, in quantity, a lethal ingestant. (MSDS available from OSHA, Dec. 1985);
  • "Salicylic acid is a hazardous chemical under criteria of the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard." (Chemical Products Synopsis, Feb. 1987);
  • Kirk-Othmer: Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology 20 (3rd Edit., 1982) documents "Health and Safety Factors (Toxicology)" and "Toxicity and First Aid" features on salicylic acid. (pp. 508,9).