Chromate poisoning from concrete work
A discussion started in 2003 & continuing through 2017 -- add your Q to bring it back to the Hot Topics page.(2003)
Q. My son works in concrete. He developed a bad skin condition. He had a terrible time with the company they refused him workers compensation and gave him unemployment finally but he wants to know if this is life threatening and how can he get rid of it short of not working in concrete?Terry Hopkins
- Chillicothe, Ohio
A. The doctor is out, Terry.
Please don't rely on strangers on the Internet as to whether an illness your son is suffering is life-threatening. Please get him to a dermatologist ASAP.
I didn't know that concrete included chromate. Good luck.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Postscript 1/22/10: I wish a concrete engineer would join this thread because we metal finishers don't know enough about it. I find that, yes, Portland cement contains chromate, and additional chromate has sometimes been added to help protect the reinforcing steel from corrosion. Additionally, ferrous sulphates or other reduction agents have sometimes been used to reduce the chromate content. It's complex, and I don't know enough :-)
A. The skin problem is most likely an alkali burn due to the high pH of concrete, about 12.5 for cured, possibly higher for the fresh mixture. Some research has been done on concrete additives such as chromates, nitrates, etc. trying to prevent corrosion of reinforcing steel. I am not aware of any commercial usage.Ken Vlach
- Goleta, California
Finishing.com honored Ken for his countless carefully
researched responses. He passed away May 14, 2015.
Rest in peace, Ken. Thank you for your hard work
which the finishing world continues to benefit from.
A. I used to work with concrete, from pouring to finishing.
The possible cause of this skin reaction could be the latex that is usually part of certain plasticizers that are added to the mix to improve weatherability. When combined with the high pH value of concrete, this can cause lesions and burns. Try a glycolic acid based skin salve that can be obtained at most pharmacies, if it doesn't work, then you are probably seeing a latex allergy, which is very common.
Good luck!Jeff Swayze
- Kelowna, B.C., Canada
Q. My husband has been doing concrete for the last 7 years and in the last 3 he has developed sores that develop into puss filled knots. It got so bad that one on his knee swelled to the size of 3 softballs and finally after 2 visits to the family doctor. then a 24 hour trip to the emergency room. in which they admitted him but would not lance his leg to relieve the puss. dismissed him. another trip the following day to another emergency room in which I told the doctor to lance his leg or I would leave him there. they finally did. This was before the 3 trips we made to the dermatologist in which the results came back as staph infection. The antibiotic he was given ($450.00) did not work.
It has been an ongoing thing. he has them all over his arms. legs. one on his ear. chin. etc. There has to be something they are using in the concrete that makes me wonder if eventually this will cause homeowners to have reactions since this is what homes are built with. Kind of like lead and asbestos...? I am at loss on what to do except him change his business but in the meantime other concrete workers are coming up with the same thing. Both of my children have gotten these (weird) since I sleep with him but have never gotten one. So. family doctor. dermatologist. and hospital visits have come up with nothing for a cure. I really think something should be looked into about this since I have noticed when I did research 2 years ago online there was basically nothing and now there are more people coming up with the same stuff in the concrete business. Any info or insight on this is welcomed.Tracie Fulcher
concrete - Winter Park, Florida
A. Hi, Tracie. Concrete is extremely alkaline (almost like lye), and this would be very bad for anyone's skin. Sorry, I don't know enough about concrete in general or this specific case to have an opinion whether a chromate additive, if any, is accentuating your husband's problems with it.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Q. My husband has been working in concrete for 18 years. His exposure may not have been as great as some because he works most of the time on the curb machine. But now he has started getting odd sores on his hands. They are raised little "knots" that look sort of like blood blisters at first, then they swell up more with puss, bleed, then scab over & heal. Usually about 7 days start to finish. Most of the time, they come out of nowhere, with no previous wound or irritation. He has about 4 or 5 sores at a time, each one at a different stage of development. However this week he scratched his wrist on something and one of the sores started coming up in the middle of it. I could understand a staph infection in the case of the scratch, but I don't understand how it could just come out of nowhere to cause a sore where nothing had been before. He says he's heard from others in the business that it looks like concrete poisoning & he has a doctors appointment scheduled soon. After scouring the internet, it is frustrating to not find any medical information on these sores. But with the number of complaints & inquiries I have seen posted in different places online it's obvious that something to do with concrete work DOES cause some type of sores... It would be nice if someone could get to the bottom of this. From what I have read the doctors are not any help. I would like to ask any others who have experienced this problem to email me with their details and perhaps we can find a doctor willing to help us all. Put "Concrete Poisoning" in the subject line. Thanks!Kristi Ward
- DeLand, Florida
Q. I do concrete for a living also, but am a driver that delivers it, I have started coming up with these sores, on my arms kind of look like a bug bite that has been itched and itched, I notice if I put a antibiotic on them they go away, but just come back again, They are leaving scars on my arm, I am not sure to what they are? Could any one help me also?Bridget Howell
concrete cement driver - Chandler, Arizona
Q. Concrete poisoning: we are trying to find info on what it is and treatment. My son has sores on his fingers, is a stone mason. So far have found nothing on the Internet about it.
- Kalispell, Montana
Specialized Information Services
U.S. National Library of Medicine
Information about Portland Cement and health problems can be found from the Hazmap site.
- Baker, Louisiana
Q. I am a homeowner that purchased 10 yards of concrete on a weekend to pour 3 concrete walls and I suffered severe chemical burns to my wrist, both knees, stomach and inside of my legs. It should be noted that I had lined sweatpants, long sleeve shirt, gloves and boots on unlike the others working with me that had no shirts and shorts on. The doctors treated it as a chemical burn; it has been 3 months and as I expected I have several scars. I did not expect to have recurrent outbreaks of little rashes almost similar to bug bites (that itch) like someone else has previously described. I am waiting to be seen by a reputable Dermatologist but I am skeptical that he will be helpful after having read several other entries. I am also looking for any other helpful information...Thanks.Kelly Prihoda
- Pikesville, Maryland
A. My husband, 55 years old, had worked in concrete and masonry most of his life until we discovered that he has concrete poisoning. He had begun developing blistering on his hands which broke and became painful sores. For several months after he stopped doing concrete work the sores continued. He tried antibiotic cream which helped heal the sores but new ones continued to appear. He tried vinegar, emu oil, vitamin E, but nothing worked. A friend developed a cream that is made of silver water, cocoa butter, and aloe. Her goal for making the cream was to cure his hands. Unbelievably it worked. His hands completely healed and he has not gotten another blister since, except once. Recently he just moved a sack of concrete and the next day he had a new blister. So he put more cream on it. He stopped doing concrete work in November of 2005 and has been using the cream since. I have been after her to let me get on this website and let everyone know about it. Now she is ready to market it. You can order through email@example.com.
I hope it helps everyone.Michelle Gambino
- Wimberley, Texas
Ed. note: If she wants people to know about it, she should advertise on this page or anywhere, not try to promote it by posting in public forums, Michelle :-)
That approach is called "comment spam"/"blog spam" and if there is any financial motivation for the comment which is not obvious or revealed, it can even be prosecuted. Further, it starts a race to the bottom, encouraging each salesperson to try to out-claim the previous one, even posting phony testimonials, posing as a satisfied customer (we've received a lot of them). Finally, if the business isn't a success after all, the readers will still be wasting their time e-mailing her years later, only to have to wait weeks or months before deciding the business is gone.
We try hard to be very clear to identify our advertisers as advertisers. But good luck to you both!
January 23, 2010
A. I have just recovered from chromate contact while working with concrete.The chromate is alkaline with a high pH. The itch was incredible, to such a point I would cut the skin of my arm.
I now use 1 kilogram/(2 pounds) of rock sea salt in a shallow bath. Sea water is 35 grams of salt per liter my mix is about 25 grams per liter. After a week the itch and sores reduced significantly.I have since been to a dermatologist. I was advised to continue with the salt bath plus wash the infected areas with acetic acid at 25 parts per liter. Acetic acid is vinegar (acid negates an alkaline and visa versa). Both of the above have reduced the sores and scars.
I also use a week cortisone cream to reduce the itch along with normal hay fever antihistamine tablets.
It is important to cover the area with a cream or non-perfumed moisturizer. Hope this helps.
- Melbourne Australia
February 6, 2010
A. My husband has been working concrete since he was seventeen and now he is forty-three. We have been through the terrible skin for years, but he didn't know what else he had coming! His joints have been wasting away all that time. He has had one shoulder replacement and needs it done again (along with the other one.) He is getting ready to have a knee replacement and is looking for the right doctor. I suggest that anyone wanting to do concrete for a living really decide how long you want to be happy first. I can say the money was good, but not for the trade off. And for everyone out there talking about the terrible skin symptoms and rashes, that will all go away when you quit working in that field! My husband hasn't poured in 2 yrs. (except an occasional small slab) When you quit, it will clear up real nicely!Tara Meza
Construction - Greenville, California
Hi cousin Tara. Very sorry for your husband's hardships. I suppose it is possible that your husband's joint issues are the result of working with concrete, but I think it's equally possible that they have nothing to do with it -- bad things happen to good people. What is the evidence of a causal relationship? Thanks!
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
September 9, 2010
Q. I recently was cutting concrete patio stones with a wet saw. After three days of cutting my wrist started aching real bad took Aleve and it went away; next morning fingers on both hands were completely numb. The left hand cleared but right ring, middle and index finger stayed swollen and very painful and palms were itching so bad. Then the rash on my legs from where the water was hitting me while cutting; then severe headaches --this has lasted for over a week. I know this is probably concrete poisoning . . . any help?don millsap
- Alton, Illinois
A. Vitamin B2 may help also. It has shown promise with skin eczema and other problems. In addition treatments using the pH balancing of Salt water and vinegars. B2 also helps with sweat induced itching of body (aka groin and torso) areas. Won't go further into those details ;-)Lee Studley
- Phoenix, Arizona, USA
September 15, 2011
A. I have been a mason for forty years. This text is a confession rather than a question. Even knowing better my adrenaline and zeal to finish the job took over so that I made myself very sick. Two days ago I grouted a brick patio I had installed. Throughout the process I sat in the wet grout as I sponged it up. The sweat, sand abrasion, and caustic portland cement passed through my clothing and burned my skin severely. My doctor prescribed silver sulfadiazine cream and a strong antibiotic tablet. Hope this works soon. Right now I am typing instead of out earning money. Pain is so bad I cannot walk and I stick to everywhere I sit. Be careful.Charlie Weaver
- Christiansted, US Virgin Islands, USA
October 12, 2011
A. I've been doing concrete since 1978. July of this year I developed a rash on both hands and later both feet. I used every over the counter drug there is and nothing helped. The itching became unbearable. Vinegar and warm water helped sooth the itch, but only temporarily. My hands started to blister and split as well as my feet -- I could hardly walk.
The Doctor prescribed Antibiotics, and Betamethasone Dipropionate Ointment USP (Augmented*) 0.05%, and I started getting results right away. The itching is gone, so are the blisters, but they dry up into a hard skin (the blisters), that are taking a while to come off. I've only been using this creme a week; it's really good; oh yeah 1.59 ounce costs about $98.00.
I'd advise anyone who gets this to seek medical attention immediately; don't wait like I did. GOOD LUCK!
P.S.: I forgot about the shot of PENICILLIN (IN THE REAR) OUCH!
- Jacksonville, Arkansas, USA
April 18, 2012
A. My husband told me about "concrete poisoning" years ago but I didn't believe this was an issue. My father worked in concrete for years and so did my grandfather. Neither one of them had any problems I was aware of. My husband called me tonight while he was still at the job site and told me he has concrete poisoning. I called my dad to ask what to do. He told me it is the lime or lye (not sure which) in the concrete that dries it out. A friend he worked with use to have raw fingers from touching it directly. His advice was to wear gloves. (which would make my husbands job much harder). For years he would just soak his hands in warm water when he got home to draw the chemicals out and he always used corn huskers lotion. I have been told to use hydrocortizone cream while it hurts, Neosporin after the pain subsides to heal it, and then this surgical lotion called Surgeon's Skin Secret [linked by editor to product info at Amazon]. It has beeswax in it so it puts a film over the skin to avoid this in the future. Hope this helps.Kristine Grammes
- Sellersville, Pennsylvania USA
Yes, gloves may make work harder, but in every industry we are learning how essential they are. The chromate (hexavalent chrome) in concrete is an issue that we probably don't have a really good handle on yet, but even so concrete is extremely abrasive, and extremely alkaline, which causes skin burns -- so gloves should be worn regardless of what we find out about the chromate content.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
September 29, 2012
A. I have been working in the concrete industry for 9 years now. Fresh out of high school and I have been around it my whole life; it's what my family does. My first experience was with a reaction to the silica dust while jackhammering out a concrete truck drum. While doing so, I got a irritation on my cheek. Cleaning the area with soap and water, diluted vinegar and a healthy coat of Neosporin cleared it up in a week. Now I have been on the side of working with the material. I have noticed that there is no way to stop the irritation from happening, but personal protective equipment will GREATLY reduce the chance of overexposure. I was never big on working with gloves but after 5 years of bleeding fingernails I started wearing thin knit gloves and my fingers stopped bleeding and my nails went back to normal. Yesterday at work I got severely burned on my left calf, size of a silver dollar in the worst spot. This is the worst i have ever experienced and it was my own fault; I could feel it getting worse and worse until I pulled up my pant leg and the boss saw it and made me get cleaned up. A man's pride can really get him hurt. Concrete boots are a must and if it is a a thick pour tape the top of your boots. Everyone's skin is different and people with sensitive skin should take extra precaution. So here's the rub: get all cement/concrete scrubbed away from sore; this will be painful; vinegar will hurt badly for about 30 seconds but will do wonders. Also Aquaphor applied generously to the area after cleaning and neutralizing the area. I hope this will help someone.Cole Brown
- Cooksville Illinois
October 2, 2012
Q. I have been doing concrete form work and pouring and finishing for 5 hrs now and In the last three months I've started getting these little bumps on top Of my arm that itch like crazy, about 15 in one little spot. Now my other arm is starting to itch in the same spot. After reading a few post on here, I also have small bumps that look like blood blisters then they turn into these sores that have gone away for quite some time now. My fellow coworkers say it is concrete poisoning, and that I need to rub vinegar on it every day till it's gone. I haven't tried it yet but I'm going to.Tom Bradley
Concrete finisher - Pensacola, Florida, United States
A. Prolonged exposure to Portland cement is dangerous. It can cause allergic contact dermatitis. Where dealing with hexavalent chromium, stop while you're ahead; always wear very good protection.Chris Jorgenson
- Sioux Falls, South Dakota
November 27, 2012
Q. I have been having cramping in both legs and sharp pains shooting down my legs. My Mother-in-law said my Father-in-law before he died (in 1996) had the same problem. He went to doctor, they did blood test and said he was low in potassium and magnesium. Doctor knew what kind of work he did and said the cement is drawing these out of his legs. Gave him these supplements and told him to put his legs and feet up a few days and he should feel better within a few days.
We just bought an underground home and came in and in process of remodeling and we have concrete floors. Could this be possible?
- Milan, Indiana
A. Hi Tina. Sorry for your troubles. Although strangers with no medical training on the internet are dubious medical advisors, it seems to me that there is a huge difference between your father in law's situation as a concrete worker, and yours as someone living in a home with a concrete floor -- even assuming your soft symptoms are the same as his, and are due to a potassium and magnesium shortage, and that your mother-in-law's memory is accurate, and that his doctor nailed his diagnosis more than 16 years ago. Please see your doctor, and best of luck.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
April 18, 2013
Q. I acquired concrete poisoning after I did a job on a dam in Washington State. The supposed cure for this is heavy antibiotics and mass steroids. I got the poisoning from drilling dry concrete and inhaled some from the air atm. I have been under steroids for 6 weeks and I'm still breaking out and in severe pain. I have went to numerous Drs. and haven't had a lot of help on this. I am contacting the poison control center in Seattle Washington to try and receive some help. I have worked concrete for 35 years and have never had any issues until I got burnt from it on a different dam in this state. Long story short, the concrete I was working with is a 12,000 psi mix. Hoping to have luck with poison control center; been searching for info on net and found this site; thought I would share my story to see if I might be able to help others. I am currently under the care of a dermatologist and have had some of the symptoms relievedMike Ayers
- Richland, Washington, USA
September 21, 2013
!! I googled all the symptoms I had, after getting these blisters after doing some concrete rendering and was sure what I had was the same. When it recurred after being aggravated by getting blisters on my fingers, I went to the doctor. She told me it was 'Whitlow Herpes'.
She burst one of the blisters and took a sample of the fluid for laboratory analysis. It came back confirming, it was Whitlow Herpes - quite treatable but extremely contagious.
Please folks go to the doctor! At the very least google WHITLOW HERPES.
- MACKAY queensland australia
July 18, 2014
Q. I think I have cement poison. I've been to the Doctors and they can't determine what it is. I have small sores that look oval in shape. They itch and bleed when I scratch. I've had this on my body for eight years and no Doctor can tell what it is. Anyone that has this kind of oval sores on their body please post a picture, so I can look at it.Jay Tedder
- Palestine Texas Anderson
Hi Jay. Please send pics of your own situation to firstname.lastname@example.org for posting here. Your e-mail address bounces.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
August 28, 2015
Q. I worked in concrete for many years. I also get these bump like sores that hurt and itch until I scratch them and then a clear liquid comes out and I have small crater like sores on my fingers. They start to heal only to start the cycle all over again. Please somebody, anybody, is there any helpful answers out there?Clay McDuffy
- stanfield Oregon
A. Hi Clay. From time to time (it waxes and wanes) I have what sounds absolutely identical on my fingers ... and I never worked with concrete. My doctor calls it eczema or psoriasis. Hydrocortisone and colloidal oatmeal are helpful.
It is, I suppose, possible that you have some type of concrete poisoning unrelated to common psoriasis, but which mimics it, or that concrete work intensifies psoriasis -- but please see your doctor or a dermatologist, who trained for years, and has seen thousands of examples of skin disease, instead of trying to diagnose your skin disease yourself. Best of luck.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
August 29, 2015
Thank you so much for such a quick and informative response. Unfortunately I have gone to my Dr and all he said was to use a beta type ointment on it for about 10 days and by then it should be gone. He has since then refilled this stuff for me 3 times but never asked if it was any better. I have been going to this Dr for almost 6 years after my Dr retired. I have stenosis in my spine among a long list of spine problems and all I have gotten in that time is an addiction to pain meds but that's a different forum lol. Your input was so much more helpful. Thank you so muchwilliam mcduffy [returning]
- Stanfield Oregon
September 17, 2015
A. I worked in concrete starting at 14, and stopped in 2000. The whole family was in concrete, and so that's what I got into. I have had concrete poisoning a few times. I know people that can't get it. You have to be allergic to it, like poison ivy. Or so I have always been told. There used to be a cream that worked wonders for it, but can't remember what it was called. I just poured some steps for a friend, after being out of the business for 15 years, and got some on my fingers. Nice birthday present for my 50th birthday. LOL.
Was searching the internet and can't find the cream but came across this post. Worst case I ever had was on my foot cause I didn't know concrete got in my shoe. It eats the skin off if you don't get it washed off immediately.
Here is some info from
I found on the internet doing my search for the cream :
"When cement is dry it contains calcium oxide, which is not particularly dangerous. However, when water is added to cement, calcium hydroxide is formed, which is extremely alkaline with a pH of 12 to 13. Normal human skin has a pH of 5.5; therefore, wet cement can produce alkaline (caustic) skin burns which progress and get worse without more exposure. A worker may have wet concrete on his or her skin for hours without feeling any discomfort; however, the cement is damaging the skin microscopically. Early identification of changes to the skin is important so steps can be taken to treat the affected area.
"Cement burns frequently produce discoloration of the skin, gradually changing to a deep purple-blue color, eventually progressing to painful burns, ulcerations and, in the worst cases, amputation. Some patients report red inflamed skin near the affected area followed by severe blistering. Cement burns can also lead to allergic dermatitis.
"Wet concrete has additional characteristics that are harmful to human skin: hygroscopic (draws moisture from skin); abrasive (physically damages the skin surface, making it a less effective barrier); and contains sensitizing chemicals and metals, such as hexavalent chromium (can cause allergic contact dermatitis).
"Once the eyes or areas of the skin have been directly exposed to wet concrete, immediate steps should be followed to slow the burning process:
Remove any contaminated clothing, being careful not to touch unexposed areas. Promptly rinse clothes in clean water.
Gently brush any dry chemicals off the skin and flush the affected area with clean running water for at least 20 minutes. To help neutralize the alkalinity, add vinegar, citrus or a buffer to the water.
If the eyes are involved, rinse eyes with clean water for 20 minutes.
Seek professional medical attention without delay. Provide the medical personnel with a product Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) and a Physician Alert brochure (available from The Center to Protect Workers' Rights), which explains the skin hazards of concrete work."
Hope this helps.
- Indianapolis, Indiana. U.S.A.
May 21, 2016
Q. My husband is a tile setter and has been for the last 17 years. His fingers are always swollen and he is almost always in pain in his fingertips. Is this cause from this cement water bucket?Dana Sicurella
Tile setter - Hamilton, Ontario Canada
A. Hi Dana. An experienced doctor can probably look at your husband's hands and tell whether the problem is eczema, psoriasis, arthritis, or something else entirely and give him some sound advice. As a layman addressing a question with so many unknowns, all I can say is "probably", and can he try thin plastic gloves? He probably won't like them, but everyone from cooks to dentists to toll collectors manages to get used to them and it would give him some info to go by. Good luck!
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"
October 19, 2016
! Waaa! The itch should not be allowed to feel so good to scratch for about the 5 seconds it does until the real pain sets in :-(
I have done lots of concrete work in my life and I love the mud and the hard work that comes with it. I never had a problem until we started using this bio diesel form oil crap -- anyhow I been through the crazy skin rash and sores; I've tried so may creams and cleansers and going to the doc's (doc's a complete waste of time and brown bills--$100).
What i found works for me and fast has been WITCH HAZEL pored into my hand and rubbed on two times a day or whenever it's itching; let dry -- and then for added effectiveness and relief --POLYSPORIN DAILY MOISTURIZING CREAM. Ooh feels so good and I have no scarring. I really really hope this helps other people; I know the rash and the damn itching is more than enough to drive one mad.craig stashuk
- calgary canada
November 22, 2016
Q. My fiancé is a concrete finisher. Has been doing this for 25 plus years. For the last couple years he has been getting these sores all over his arms and sometimes on his face. When he squeezes them he gets metal shavings/slivers out of the sores? Does anyone know anything about this?Jenn Ellis
Concrete finisher - Lasalle Illinois
January 22, 2017
Q. My husband has has been a brick and block mason for 35 years and he is a generations mason. That's all they know. Never in his whole life has he got poisoning from mortar mix until this past year. He has blisters and knots and the pus. And really bad scars from his hands to a few inches above his elbows. We have been to the doctor, no one has a clue. And after the medicine of any kind gets out of his system it comes back even more severe then the previous. It never happened until he started using portland mortar mix. He suffers greatly with it. I however have found that cortisone and Gold Bond powder helps relieve and dry up the blisters. I get both products for eczema. It helps to keep clean. I don't know what we should do. But I do know if all the other mixes don't hurt him and Portland does, then they must be mixing it too strong because everyone we know that has been doing masonry for all their life just started getting this problem. And it's causing lots of pain and lots of money problems for everyone, and doctor bills for us all.crystal corvin
- old fort Tennessee, America
June 6, 2017
A. I am a certified iridologist and had a gentleman come to me with these bumps all over his arms. I gave him a bottle of Pau De Arco to take as directed. It got rid of them completely.Joyce McCarthy
Iridologist - Temecula, California US