Hexavalent chromium

Hexavalent chromium
An example of a chromium(VI) compound: chromium trioxide

Hexavalent chromium (chromium VI) refers to chemical compounds that contain the element chromium in the +6 oxidation state. Virtually all chromium ore is processed via hexavalent chromium, specifically the salt sodium dichromate. Approximately 136,000,000 kilograms (300,000,000 lb) of hexavalent chromium were produced in 1985.[1] Other hexavalent chromium compounds are chromium trioxide and various salts of chromate and dichromate. Hexavalent chromium is used for the production of stainless steel, textile dyes, wood preservation, leather tanning, and as anti-corrosion and conversion coatings as well as a variety of niche uses. Chromium hexavalent (CrVI) compounds, often called hexavalent chromium, exist in several forms. Industrial uses of hexavalent chromium compounds include chromate pigments in dyes, paints, inks, and plastics; chromates added as anticorrosive agents to paints, primers, and other surface coatings; and chromic acid electroplated onto metal parts to provide a decorative or protective coating. Hexavalent chromium can also be formed when performing "hot work" such as welding on stainless steel or melting chromium metal. In these situations the chromium is not originally hexavalent, but the high temperatures involved in the process result in oxidation that converts the chromium to a hexavalent state.(29 CFR OSHA General Industry 1910)

Hexavalent chromium is recognized as a human carcinogen via inhalation.[2] Workers in many different occupations are exposed to hexavalent chromium. Problematic exposure is known to occur among workers who handle chromate-containing products as well as those who perform welding, grinding, or brazing on stainless steel.[2] Within the European Union, the use of hexavalent chromium in electronic equipment is largely prohibited by the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive.



Hexavalent chromium compounds are genotoxic carcinogens. Chronic inhalation of hexavalent chromium compounds increases risk of lung cancer (lungs are especially vulnerable, followed by fine capillaries in kidneys and intestine). Soluble compounds, like chromic acid, are much weaker carcinogens.[3] Chromate-dyed textiles or chromate-tanned leather shoes can cause or exacerbate contact dermatitis. Ingestion of chromium VI can also cause irritation or ulcers in the stomach and intestines.[4]

Hexavalent chromium is transported into cells via the sulfate transport mechanisms, taking advantage of the similarity of sulfate and chromate with respect to their structure and charge. Trivalent chromium, which is the more common variety of chromium compounds, is not transported into cells. Inside the cell, Cr(VI) is reduced first to metastable pentavalent chromium (Cr(V)), then to trivalent chromium (Cr(III)). Vitamin C and other reducing agents combine with chromate to give Cr(III) products inside the cell.[3] According to some[who?] researchers, the damage is caused by hydroxyl radicals, produced during reoxidation of pentavalent chromium by hydrogen peroxide molecules present in the cell.[citation needed]

In the U.S., the OSHA PEL for airborne exposures to hexavalent chromium is 5 µg/m3 (0.005 mg/m3).[5][6]

For drinking water, no United States EPA Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) exists. California has finalized a Public Health Goal of 0.02 parts per billion (ppb or micrograms per liter) [7] and is now in the process of establishing an enforceable MCL.

Air and water pollution


Kooragang Island, New South Wales

Hexavalent Chromium was released as a gas from the Newcastle Orica explosives plant on the 8th August 2011. Up to 20 workers at the plant were exposed to the gas and 70 nearby homes in Stockton. The town of was not notified until 3 days after the release of the Hexavalant Chromium and a slight uproar of the townsfolk occurred. [8]

United States

Presence in major cities and pending regulation

In 2010, the Environmental Working Group studied the drinking water in 35 American cities. The study was the first nationwide analysis measuring the presence of the chemical in U.S. water systems. The study found measurable hexavalent chromium in the tap water of 31 of the cities sampled, with Norman, Oklahoma, at the top of list; 25 cities had levels that exceeded California's proposed limit.[9]

The United States Environmental Protection Agency set a standard of no more than 0.1 mg/L of total chromium in 1991. This includes both chromium VI and less toxic forms. There is currently no drinking water limit established by the EPA specifically for Chromium VI. The agency began a toxicology study in 2008, following a report by the National Toxicology Program.[10] EPA released a draft scientific assessment in September 2010[11] and expects to begin rulemaking in 2011 or 2012 based on the final assessment.[10][12]

As of 2010, the California Environmental Protection Agency had proposed a goal of 0.2 parts per billion, despite a 2001 state law requiring a standard be set by 2005.[13] A final Public Health Goal of 0.02 ppb was established in July 2011. [14]

Hinkley, California

Hexavalent chromium was found in drinking water in the southern Californian town of Hinkley and was brought to popular attention by the involvement of Erin Brockovich. The 0.58 ppm Chromium VI in the groundwater in Hinkley exceeded the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 0.10 ppm for total Chromium currently set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).[15] It also exceeded the California MCL of 0.05 ppm (as of November 2008). [16] Note that since no MCL exists for Chromium VI the total Chromium standards apply.

A controversial study claimed that from 1996 to 2008, 196 cancers were identified among residents of the census tract that includes Hinkley — a slightly lower number than the 224 cancers that would have been expected given its demographic characteristics.[17][18] 196 cases over 12 years for a population of 1915 equates to roughly 853 cases per 100k population per year. By comparison San Bernadino County averaged 359/100k/yr over the same period.[19]

Average Cr(VI) levels in Hinkley were recorded as 1.19 ppb with a peak of 3.09 ppb. The PG&E Topock Compressor Station averaged 7.8ppb and peaked at 31.8ppb.[20] Compare to the California proposed health goal of 0.06 ppb. The same day the study came out, the plume of contaminated water was reported to be spreading.[21] Ongoing cleanup documentation is maintained at California EPA's page.

Midland, Texas

In June 2009, the ground water in Midland, Texas (U.S.), was found to be contaminated with chromium. The Midland groundwater reached higher levels of contamination than in Hinkley with 5250 ppb or 5.25 ppm.[22]

Davenport, California

The Unified Air Pollution Control District reported high airborne levels of chromium(VI) at an elementary school and fire department in Davenport, California. The substance apparently originated from a local Cemex cement plant. The levels of chromium(VI) were eight times the air district's acceptable level at Pacific Elementary School and ten times at the Davenport Fire Department.[23] The levels detected did not exceed EPA limits. However, the air samples taken by the air district from June to August at the elementary school and fire department in Davenport registered measurements of hexavalent chromium that were up to ten times higher than allowed by Californian environmental standards.[24] The case highlights the previously unrecognized possible release of chromium(VI) from cement-making.[24][25]

Chicago, Illinois

In Chicago's first ever testing for the toxic metal contaminant, results show that the city's local drinking water contains levels of hexavalent chromium more than 11 times higher than the health standard set in California in July of 2011. The results of the test showed that the water which is sent to over 7 million residents had average levels of .23 parts per billion of the toxic metal. California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment designated the nation's new "public heath goal" limit as .02 parts per billion. Echoing their counterparts in other cities where the metal has been detected, Chicago officials stress that local tap water is safe and suggest that if a national limit is adopted, it likely would be less stringent than California's goal.

[26] [27]

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

On January 7, 2011 it was announced that Milwaukee, Wisconsin had tested its water and hexavalent chromium was found to be present. Officials are saying it is in such small quantities that it is nothing to worry about, although this contaminant has been linked to cancer (In the draft human health assessment for chromium-6 that was released in September 2010 by EPA for independent expert peer review and public comment, EPA is proposing to classify hexavalent chromium (or chromium-6) as likely to cause cancer in humans when ingested over a lifetime. EPA will make a final determination by the end of 2011.).[28] Further testing is being conducted and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.[29]

Cameron, Missouri

In 2009, a lawsuit was filed against Prime Tanning Corporation of St. Joseph, Missouri, over alleged hexavalent chromium contamination in Cameron, Missouri. A cluster of brain tumors had developed in the town that was above average for the population size of the town. The lawsuit alleges that the tumors were caused by waste hexavalent chromium that had been distributed to local farmers as free fertilizer. Legal proceedings are still ongoing[30]


In 2008, defense contractor KBR was alleged to have exposed 16 members of the Indiana National Guard, as well as its own workers, to hexavalent chromium in Iraq in 2003.[31] Later, 433 members of the Oregon National Guard's 162nd Infantry Battalion were informed of possible exposure to hexavalent chromium while escorting KBR contractors.[32] One of the National Guard soldiers, David Moore, died in February 2008. The cause was lung disease at age 42. His death was ruled service-related. His brother believes it was hexavalent chromium.[33]


Eastern Central Greece

The chemistry of the groundwater in eastern Central Greece (central Euboea and the Asopos valley) revealed high concentrations of hexavalent chromium in groundwater systems sometimes exceeding the Greek and the EU drinking water maximum acceptable level for total chromium.[34] Hexavalent chromium pollution here is associated with industrial waste.

By using the GFAAS for total chromium, diphenylcarbazide-Cr(VI) complex colorimetric method for hexavalent chromium, and flame-AAS and ICP-MS for other toxic elements, their concentrations were investigated in several groundwater samples. The contamination of water by hexavalent chromium in central Euboea is mainly linked to natural processes, but there are anthropogenic cases.[34]

Thiva – Tanagra – Malakasa (Asopos) Basin

In the ThivaTanagraMalakasa basin, Eastern Sterea Ellada, Greece,[35] which supports many industrial activities, concentrations of chromium (up to 80 μg/L Cr(VI)) and Inofyta (up to 53 μg/L Cr(VI) were found in the urban water supply of Oropos. Cr(VI) concentrations ranging from 5 to 33 μg/L Cr(VI) were found in groundwater that is used for Thiva's water supply. Arsenic concentrations up to 34 μg/L along with Cr(VI) levels up to 40 μg/L were detected in Schimatari's water supply. In the Asopos River, total chromium values were up to 13 μg/L, hexavalent chromium was less than 5 mg/L and other toxic elements were relatively low. [35]


  1. ^ Gerd Anger, Jost Halstenberg, Klaus Hochgeschwender, Christoph Scherhag, Ulrich Korallus, Herbert Knopf, Peter Schmidt, Manfred Ohlinger, "Chromium Compounds" in Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry, Wiley-VCH, Weinheim, 2005.doi:10.1002/14356007.a07_067
  2. ^ a b IARC (1999-11-05) [1990] (PDF). Volume 49: Chromium, Nickel, and Welding. Lyon: International Agency for Research on Cancer. ISBN 92-832-1249-5. http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol49/volume49.pdf. Retrieved 2006-07-16. "There is sufficient evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of chromium[VI] compounds as encountered in the chromate production, chromate pigment production and chromium plating industries." 
  3. ^ a b Salnikow, K. and Zhitkovich, A., "Genetic and Epigenetic Mechanisms in Metal Carcinogenesis and Cocarcinogenesis: Nickel, Arsenic, and Chromium", Chem. Res. Toxicol., 2008, 21, 28–44. doi:10.1021/tx700198a PMID 17970581
  4. ^ http://www.epa.gov/region7/pdf/national_beef_leathers-prime_tanning_chromiumVI_Fact_Sheet.pdf
  5. ^ OSHA: Small Entity Compliance Guide for the Hexavalent Chromium Standards
  6. ^ David Blowes (2002). "Tracking Hexavalent Cr in Groundwater". Science 295 (5562): 2024–25. doi:10.1126/science.1070031. PMID 11896259. 
  7. ^ Hexavalent Chromium PHG.
  8. ^ Jones, Jackqui (11 August 2011). "Stockton residents fume over fallout from Orica". Newcastle Herald. http://www.theherald.com.au/news/local/news/general/stockton-residents-fume-over-fallout-from-orica/2256110.aspx. Retrieved 12 August 2011. 
  9. ^ "US water has large amounts of likely carcinogen: study". Yahoo News. 2010-12-19. http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/healthusenvironmentpollutionwater. Retrieved 2010-12-19. 
  10. ^ a b "EPA’s recommendations for enhanced monitoring for Hexavalent Chromium (Chromium-6) in Drinking Water". http://water.epa.gov/drink/info/chromium/guidance.cfm. Retrieved 2011-08-04. 
  11. ^ "IRIS Toxicological Review of Hexavalent Chromium". 2010-09-30. http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/iris_drafts/recordisplay.cfm?deid=221433. Retrieved 2011-08-04. 
  12. ^ http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/iristrac/index.cfm?fuseaction=viewChemical.showChemical&sw_id=1114
  13. ^ http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/gsolomon/california_finally_takes_leade.html
  14. ^ Hexavalent Chromium PHG.
  15. ^ U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Consumer Factsheet on: Chromium.
  16. ^ California Department of Public Health, Maximum Contaminant Levels and Regulatory Dates for Drinking Water.
  17. ^ SCHWARTZ, NOAKI (Monday, December 13, 2010). "Survey shows unremarkable cancer rate in CA town". The Associated Press. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/13/AR2010121304675.html. Retrieved December, 2010. 
  18. ^ California Cancer Registry
  19. ^ California Cancer Rates
  20. ^ PG&E Background Study
  21. ^ Carrie Kahn (2010-12-13). "Erin Brockovich II? Activist Returns To Aid Town". NPR. http://www.npr.org/2010/12/13/131967600/erin-brockovich-ii-activist-returns-to-aid-town. 
  22. ^ Environmental crusader Erin Brockovich is investigating contaminated well water in Midland, Texas.
  23. ^ Carcinogenic dust found in Davenport Santa Cruz Sentinel 4 Oct 2008
  24. ^ a b Chromium 6 testing continues in Davenport, Cemex changes business practices Santa Cruz Sentinel 9 Oct 2008
  25. ^ Cemex plant could have been unwittingly releasing chromium 6 MetroSantaCruz.com 15 October 2008
  26. ^ http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/health/chicago-water-chromium-127068203.html#ixzz1UNwMlC6Q
  27. ^ http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/ct-met-drinking-water-chromium-20110806,0,5813267.story
  28. ^ http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/upload/Chromium6inDrinkingWater.pdf
  29. ^ City defends water safety Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, January 7, 2011
  30. ^ http://www.aboutlawsuits.com/lawsuit-alleges-cameron-missouri-brain-tumors-linked-to-fertilizer-3690/
  31. ^ Indiana Guardsmen Sue KBR Over Chemical from Democracy Now!, December 4, 2008
  32. ^ Associated Press (February 12, 2009). "Oregon: Possible Chemical Exposure". New York Times. Retrieved on February 12, 2009.
  33. ^ Associated Press (June 27, 2009). "Did toxic chemical in Iraq cause GIs' illnesses?". Associated Press. Retrieved on June 27, 2009.
  34. ^ a b [1]
  35. ^ a b [2]

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Chromium toxicity — Classification and external resources Chromium ICD 10 T56.2 …   Wikipedia

  • Chromium(III) chloride — Anhydrous Dihydrate …   Wikipedia

  • Chromium trioxide — Chromium trioxide …   Wikipedia

  • Chromium — This article is about the chemical element. For other uses, see Chromium (disambiguation). vanadium ← chromium → manganese ↑ Cr ↓ Mo …   Wikipedia

  • chromium — A metallic element, atomic no. 24, atomic wt. 51.9961. A dietary essential bioelement. 51Cr (half life of 27.70 days) is used as a diagnostic aid in many disorders ( e.g., gastrointestinal protein …   Medical dictionary

  • Chrome plating — This article is about a chromium electroplating technique. For other uses, see Chrome (disambiguation). Not to be confused with Chromate conversion coating. Decorative chrome plating on a motorcycle Chrome plating, often referred to simply as… …   Wikipedia

  • Spa bath — Note that the term spa bath can also refer to a spa or hot tub. A spa bath basin of water having a temperature of up to 45 degrees Celsius (#expr: 45 *9/5+32 Fahrenheit), containing salts, herbal extracts or herbal oils, in which the hands, feet… …   Wikipedia

  • Erin Brockovich — Infobox Person name = Erin Brockovich image size = 240px birth date = birth date and age|1960|6|22 birth place = Lawrence, Kansas, United States occupation = President, Brockovich Research Consulting [http://www.brockovich.com/bio.htm, (accessed… …   Wikipedia

  • Шестивалентный хром — Пример соединения хрома (VI): Оксид хрома (VI) Шестивалентный хром  химический элемент хром в степени окисления +6. Практически вся хромовая руда обрабатывается через преобра …   Википедия

  • Passivation — Mécanisme de passivation d un acier inoxydable : les atomes de chrome dans l acier réagissent avec le dioxygène de l air et forment une couche protectrice d oxyde de chrome La passivation ou passivité représente un état des métaux ou des… …   Wikipédia en Français