Chromium (VI)

Chromium (VI) is a toxic form of the metallic element chromium, and is typically generated through industrial processes. It can be released as dust, fumes or mist.

Protection

Exposure to chromium (VI) mainly occurs through inhalation or direct contact with the skin or eyes.

Where possible, you should use safer products that do not contain and will not generate chromium (VI).

If you have to work with chromium (VI) you must:

  • use ventilation
  • isolate high exposure tasks
  • use the right personal protective equipment (PPE), eg respirators, safety goggles, chemical resistant clothing and gloves
  • train workers to fit, use and maintain PPE
  • have safety equipment available, eg eye wash and showers
  • do air monitoring regularly
  • always follow the advice in safety data sheets and on product labels.

In the event of suspected exposure, call the Poisons Information Centre on 131 126

Uses

Chromium (VI) can be present as a solution or solid and may be generated as dust, fumes or mist from workplace activities where chromates, dichromates and chromic acid are used. It is also known as hexavalent chromium, and used as an anti-corrosive agent in paint and coatings. It can be present in pigments, chromium catalysts, dyes and cements (Portland cement). It is also released during chrome electroplating, during welding and hot-working on stainless steel, high chrome alloys or chrome-coated metals and is released from smelting chromium-containing ore.

Harms

The potential for harm depends on concentration and duration of use. Exposure can cause:

  • irritation, ulceration and allergic reactions with direct skin contact
  • eye damage with direct contact (including aerosol mist)
  • irritation and damage to the respiratory tract (nose, throat and lungs) through inhalation
  • fluid build-up in the lungs, burning/itching, bleeding nose and perforation of the nasal septum

Low concentrations of chromium (VI) can result in workers becoming sensitised and developing allergic reactions. Allergic reactions may cause asthma-like symptoms through inhalation and contact dermatitis through direct skin contact with chromium (VI).

Exposure to chromium (VI) through inhalation may cause lung cancers, however adequate controls such as minimising the generation of fumes, dusts and mists in addition to the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) can minimise any hazardous exposures and prevent illness in the workplace.

More information

Read the chromium technical fact sheet.

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