Chromates-May 2011

Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety 

May 2011

IN THIS ISSUE: Chromates

Chromates are one of a number of chemicals that contain hexavalent chromium, Cr(VI). These chemicals are potential occupational carcinogens.  Exposure to chromates can cause irritation to the respiratory system; nasal septum perforation, liver, kidney damage, increased or decreased white cells, eye injury, conjunctivitis, skin ulcer, and sensitization dermatitis. 

“Recently, greater attention has been given to the health effects of chromates and hexavalent chromium in particular,” explains Gary R. Ticker, CIH, CSP, of Occusafe, Inc. “When OSHA lowered the Permissible Exposure Level to 5 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3) and created an Action Level of 2.5 ug/m3, industries took note.”

Compounds containing hexavalent chromium have a variety of industrial applications:

  • Lead and Zinc Chromate: This compound is found primarily in paints and pigments for metals varnishes, pigments in rubber and plastics, and pigments in aerospace paints.
  • Sodium Dichromate: This compound is found in inks, dyes, electric batteries, the manufacture of chromic acid, and as a corrosion inhibitor.

How can exposure to chromates be controlled?

  1. Substitution. When used in spray-painting operations, substitution of non-chromate coating may be the most effective solution.
  2. Ventilation. If substitution is not feasible, exhaust ventilation can greatly reduce exposure to chromates found in paint vapors. When sanding, a common operation in preparing a part for painting, dust that may not be controlled by a paint booth can be managed by down-draft ventilation. General room ventilation is another viable option for other industrial processes.
  3. Enclosure.  Closing off the process may adequately protect workers.
  4. Personal protective equipment. Respirators and protective clothing may provide protection from exposure to chromates.

As with the use of any material containing Cr(VI), a comprehensive control program is needed. Such a program should include medical monitoring, workplace testing, available hygienic facilities, training, personal protective equipment, engineering controls, and comprehensive work practices.

For more information on this topic and to discuss your company’s safety and industrial hygiene needs call OccuSafe at (214) 662-6005 or (303) 219-6973 or visit us at

OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate andcontrol hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health. OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.

This newsletter is published monthly by OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc.   Feel free to forward it to friends and colleagues.

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