Chromium (Hexavalent)

Hexavalent chromium [also known as chrome 6 and Cr(VI)] is the most toxic form of the element chromium. The Oscar winning film, Erin Brockovich (Language); brought attention to the risk and danger of exposure to Cr(VI). It revolved around Cr(VI) added to cooling tower water to inhibit corrosion and rust in the system. For years, the company had drained the mixture into ponds. Ultimately, the contaminated water flowed into the ground water and into public drinking water supply of Hinkley, Calif. The exposure to Cr(VI) led to a substantial number of the town’s citizens getting cancer along with workers at the plant from occupational exposures.

Hexavalent chromium [Cr (VI)] exposures are inherently harmful. Exposures can occur by breathing contaminated air, skin contact, eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water.

Cr(VI) targets the respiratory system, kidneys, liver, skin and eyes. Health effects include:

  • Nasal irritation, ulcers, and perforations like a perforated nasal septum.
  • Kidney and liver damage
  • Skin irritation, contact dermatitis, sensitization and ulcers from handling liquids or solids containing Cr(VI) such as Portland Cement.
  • Eye irritation and damage.
  • Lung damage resulting in asthma, irritation, pulmonary edema, and lung cancer.
  • Erosion and discoloration of the teeth.
  • All hexavalent chromium compounds are considered carcinogenic. It’s known to cause lung cancer.

Get started by identifying your processes and tasks that use or produce hexavalent chromium (Cr+6). Examples of work related exposures:

  • Handling and using Cr(VI) - containing chemicals like dyes, pigments, paints, and primers including lead chromate and zinc chromate.
  • Applying or removing paint or coatings that contain Cr(VI).
  • Operating chrome metal electroplating baths.
  • Hot processes like welding, cutting, brazing, and arc gouging with materials that contain Cr(VI) like stainless steel alloys and chrome plated metal produce Cr(VI).
  • Using chromic acid to wash laboratory glass wear.
  • Hazardous waste remediation or cleanup operations involving Cr(VI).
  • Creating specialty glass.
  • Working with Portland cement.
Requirements & Policies

Washington State has a workplace safety and health rule that applies to all occupational exposures to hexavalent chromium, including the construction and maritime industries. Requirements include:

  • Identifying your work processes, and tasks that use or produce hexavalent chromium Cr(VI).
  • Communicating and training workers in the hazards of Cr(VI) exposure and the rule requirements.
  • Determining work related exposures.
  • Setting up appropriate regulated areas.
  • Implementing engineering controls like ventilation and work practices to reduce worker exposures. Supplement these controls with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) including respiratory protection.
  • Providing basic washing facilities and change areas.
  • Keeping surfaces including those in eating and drinking areas free from Cr(VI).
  • Prohibiting eating, drinking, smoking, chewing tobacco or gum, or applying cosmetics in areas where skin or eye contact with Cr(VI) could occur.
  • Providing medical surveillance.
  • Keeping records.


Enforcement Policies

Standards and Guidance from others

Training & Resources

Meeting Workplace Safety & Health Requirements

The regulation has training requirements to ensure workers understand the hazards associated with exposure to hexavalent chromium Cr (VI), and the measures they can take to protect themselves.

  • Provide employees with information and training on hazardous chemicals including Cr(VI) via a comprehensive chemical hazard communication programs that includes training on:
    • Safety data sheets (SDSs), labels and the hazards of Cr(VI).
    • Identifying Cr(VI) operations and tasks in their work areas that have exposure to Cr(VI).
    • Methods used to detect Cr(VI) in the workplace. Along with steps workers can take to protect themselves like using a local exhaust ventilation system, using appropriate safe work practices, emergency procedures like spill cleanup, and wearing protective clothing and equipment.
    • The signs and symptoms Cr(VI) exposure.
    • The requirements of the Cr(VI) standard and the medical surveillance.
    • Provide a copy of the Cr(VI) standard.

You can use these and other materials to assist you in meeting specific requirements in L&I Safety & Health rules.

Videos and Training Aids

Publications, Handouts, Checklists,

Sample Programs: Nothing is available at this time.

Meetings/Tips: Nothing is available at this time.

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