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Chromium Toxicity
Who Is at Risk of Exposure to Chromium?

Course: WB 1466
CE Original Date: December 18, 2008
CE Renewal Date: December 18, 2011
CE Expiration Date: December 18, 2013
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Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this section, you will be able to

  • identify who is at risk of exposure to chromium.


Chromium is one of the most widely used industrial metals. Several million workers worldwide are estimated to be exposed to chromium compounds in an array of industries such as pigment production, chrome plating, stainless steel welding, and leather tanning. Additionally, it is one of the major contaminants in various hazardous waste sites worldwide, including the Superfund sites in the United States [EPA 2002; Medeiros, Rodrigues et al. 2003].

Worker Exposure

Workers in industries that use chromium are at increased risk of chromium's adverse health effects. Those workers at greatest risk are those involved in stainless steel welding, chromate production, chrome plating, and chrome pigment industries, where exposure is primarily to Cr(VI) via inhalation of aerosols.

An estimated 558,000 workers in the United States are potentially exposed to chromium and chromium-containing compounds in the workplace. In many occupations, workers are exposed to both trivalent chromium (Cr[III]) and Cr(VI), as soluble and insoluble materials [ATSDR 2000; OSHA 2006].

General Public

The general population is exposed to chromium by inhaling ambient air, ingesting food, and drinking water containing chromium.

The presence of chromium compounds at hazardous waste sites can contribute to the exposure of populations residing or working nearby such sites. These populations may be exposed through to air containing particulates or mists of Cr(VI) compounds, through drinking water if soluble forms of Cr(VI) leach into groundwater, or through skin contact with soil at hazardous waste sites.

The potential for exposure to Cr(VI) at hazardous waste sites must be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Key Points

  • Workers in industries producing and using chromium are at greatest risk of its adverse effects.
  • The general population is exposed to chromium by inhaling ambient air, ingesting food, and drinking water containing chromium.

Progress Check

4. Of the following, who is at risk of chromium exposure?

A. Residents near chromate production facilities.
B. Workers in industries that use chromium.
C. Tobacco smokers.
D. All of the above.


To review relevant content, see Worker Exposure and General Public in this section.

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