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Dust from polishing chrome plating - how dangerous is it?


My company manufactures contact wheels used in many different applications. Some customers buy new wheels while others return their wheels for refurbishing. It is my job at times to strip the old neoprene off the metal insert of the wheel so that nw rubber can be molded on. One of my company's customers that sends his wheels back uses them to polish chrome plated tubing. He must do this in a wet environment because the powder residue that is removed builds up on the inside of the wheel and dries into a hard mass. When I have to remove this material, usually on a lathe, the dust breaks up into a dust. If I happen to inhale this dust it causes an immediate headache. My employer has provided me with a high quality (expensive) respirator but that doesn't filter out all the dust because I still get headaches. What could be in this dust to do that and what can I do to keep the dust from circulating in my work area.

Thank you,

Arthur Marler
- Lexington, Kentucky


This might be a real can of snakes.

If it is chrome in a very fine powder, it very probably will not pass the leaching test and is thus a hazardous waste.

If it is, the customer is violating a number of laws including DOT, OSHA and EPA.

Rather than making this a public stink, I would strongly recommend that your firm advise the customer of the possible problems and require that they soak off all of the material that you are referring to before they send it to you.

With a reasonable quality respirator that is properly used, you should not be having a health problem. But since you are, there is very probably something else in the dust that is volatile and is obviously bad for you.

If this "dust" really contains leachable chrome or other nasty things, then your employer is guilty of improper haz waste disposal.

Therefore, it is best to handle this problem very quietly and keep it out of your facility. James Watts
- Navarre, Florida

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