Home /
Search 🔍
the Site
pub Where the world gathers for
plating, anodizing, & finishing Q&As since 1989

Hexavalent chromium emissions from stainless steel parts


An ongoing discussion beginning back in 2005 ...


Q. A client of ours needs to test stainless steel tools they make for the medical and pharmaceutical industry for hexavalent chromium to show that none is emitting from the surface of the tools. They are looking for a GM method where you boil the parts in deionized water, add acid, then add and indicator and analyze the sample for hexavalent chromium using spectrophotometry. We can't find this method. Has anyone heard of such a method and know where I might get a copy? Or heard of a similar method for analyzing hexavalent chromium? Any help would be appreciated.

Lorri White
- Durham, North Carolina

"Standard Methods for Examination of Water & Wastewater"
by American Public Health Association
from Abe Books
(including dirt cheap older editions)

Affiliate Link
(your purchases make finishing.com possible)


A. The indicator you are looking for is called 1, 5 diphenylcarbohydrazide. It reacts with hexavalent chromium in solutions at low pH (~ 1.0) yielding a red violet color.

Methods for the determination of hexchrome in water can be found in various methods manuals, including
<== "Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater"

dave wichern
Dave Wichern
Consultant - The Bronx, New York


A. The test method you're referring to is GMW 3034. IMR Test Labs in Lansing N.Y. has processed material under this method for us. The detection limit for the analysis is 0.01 micrograms per gram (ppm).

Steve Richardson
- Randolph, Massachusetts


A. You might well be able to get hex chrome from the surface of parts that have been plated then chromated, but there's no way that you can get hex chrome from stainless steel. The realities of physics and chemistry shouldn't be ignored - why waste time and money testing for something that cannot possibly be there?

Bill Reynolds
Bill Reynolds [deceased]
consultant metallurgist - Ballarat, Victoria, Australia
We sadly relate the news that Bill passed away on Jan. 29, 2010.


A. I know this is an old thread, but as someone who has achieved some notoriety in the field of hexavalent chromium, I thought I would put in my two cents worth. Stainless steel is 'stainless' because the oxide film is thin and highly adherent. It is produced by the oxidation of the surface. In order to passsivate the surface, it is generally treated with a passivation solution, which can be (see ASTM ASTM A967 / A967M [affil. link to spec at Techstreet] for details) - nitric acid plus sodium dichromate, nitric acid, or citric acid. It is uncommon today, but not unknown, to use nitric acid and sodium dichromate. Inadequate rinsing would leave hexavalent chromium on the surface of the part. By the way, in case anyone is interested, stainless steel does not generate hexavalent chromium (to the best of my knowledge and experience) in the ASTM ASTM B117 [affil. link to spec at Techstreet] Salt Spray Test.

Tom Rochester
CTO - Jackson, Michigan, USA
Plating Systems & Technologies, Inc.
supporting advertiser
plating systems & technologies banner ad

October 5, 2009

Q. Thanks guys for your input on this matter. I'll really appreciate if you can answer my question; IS IT POSSIBLE THAT HEXAVALENT CHROMIUM GAS CAN BE DEVELOPED IN A UNIT THAT IS BEEN MADE IT OUT OF STAINLESS STEEL, AND ALSO BEEN CHARGED CONSTANTLY WITH ELECTRICITY? (send me please an answer asap, Thanks again

- Albany, Georgia

October 5, 2009

A. Hi, Juan. Your question was already answered but I hesitate to say 'a unit' will not develop hexavalent chromium because that's an awfully broad term :-)

Hexavalent chromium is not a gas, it is an ion dissolved in a water-based solution, but it is possible for droplets of the solution to be entrained in a gas.


Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

January 8, 2012

A. Basically no, it's not possible in a closed unit.

We need to know more about the "unit" ... is water/fluid/gas running through it? Is this electricity heating it? If it, or any of its components are chrome plated? Are you running acids through it? etc

If it's just a stainless steel bowl with stainless steel stuff, then it's not even worth testing.

Matthew Dundon
- Sydney, NSW Australia

September 18, 2016

Q. I have a question somewhat similar to this ... Hope you guys can help me; I have searched around without any luck and I'm no chemist:-)

I want to do rust removal by electrolysis (sodium carbonate / washing soda [affil. link to info/product on Amazon], water solution). Can I use a stainless steel basket as CATHODE or will it produce Cr VI ?

I Know if I use stainless steel as anode it does produce Cr6 but what if it is a stainless cathode ?

I have a small solution of Sodium carbonate, water and hexavalent chromium ... What can I do to eliminate the chromium or make it safe, preferably safe enough to dump in the drain? ... sodium meta-bisulfite, or ascorbic acid? Will that work for me ?

Kristian B Lerche
- Roedekro Denmark

September 2016

A. Hi Kristian. The cathode is the negative pole and has a surfeit of electrons rather than a deficit, so it offers reductive rather than oxidative potentials. No, a stainless steel cathode will not produce hexavalent chromium, nor even trivalent chromium.

What can be discharged is the subject of local, regional, and national laws, and I don't know what you are allowed to do in Denmark, but I do not foresee any chromium in the waste. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

September 20, 2016

A. Why not just use mild steel cathodes? SS will work and should not create any soluble hexavalent chromium as long as it never becomes anodic, but steel works too.

Lyle Kirman
Consultant - Cleveland Heights, Ohio, USA

September 20, 2016

thumbs up signPlan is to use a kitchen steamer ss mesh basket to hold a lot of small parts, screws, washers and so on ... it takes way too long to connect every single part.
There are a lot of warnings on the web against using stainless steel in a setup like this. The claim is that using SS as an anode will produce Cr6.
Im not a chemist and my knowledge about chemistry somewhat limited too ... it's magic, and Cr6 is no good.
So in order to avoid producing toxic waste I searched around and found nothing on electrolysis using a SS cathode except warnings for ss anodes.
However this entire conversation before my question was very informative and I now have a pretty good idea what to do.
I appreciate your answers guys. Thanks

Kristian B Lerche [returning]
- Roedekro Denmark

sidebar2 July 31, 2018

Q. I have a question, I'm no chemist, I've never plated chromium. I was plating nickel chloride in HCl acid, with a Nickel anode. The anode ran out so I put a new one in, then the anode started to turn the solution black with voltage, and red without voltage; I'm suspecting my last anode is not nickel.

I'm suspecting my anode might be chromium, did it create hex chromium in the solution? I wasn't paying attention so the whole tank started to turn black.

I m plating some marine seawater pump engine parts for corrosion barrier. if I switch the anode back to nickel and continue plating will the solution eventually turn back to green at some point? Thanks?

johnny lai
- bellingham, Washington, USA

July 2018

A. Hi Johnny. If you switch back to a nickel anode the solution will probably eventually turn green again, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's useable. Contaminants can sometimes ruin nickel plating at parts-per-million concentration ranges. We have almost countless threads on various aspects of nickel plating here.

I hope you are doing your learning experiments on scrap rather than on actual parts because the odds of success on your early experiments are close to zero whereas the odds of permanently ruining the parts are quite high. Plating from a nickel chloride bath is difficult and the tensile stress will be very high, so flaking of the plating is a possibility.

Sorry, but I can't guess what metal you used as an anode based on what color it turned the solution. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

August 8, 2018

thumbs up sign  Thanks Ted for your response and your advice, I've stopped plating parts with that solution, switched to scrap steel seamless tubes I had laying around and switched back to nickel anodes. Lower the ph to 1 raise the volt on the scrap tube hoping the solution will clear up faster, the plating from the bad solution on the scrap tubes has no corrosion resistance. I'll check out the forum for nickel chloride plating. I will keep trying to clear the bad solution. I've started over with a new tank of nickel chloride solution.

Johnny lai [returning]
- bellingham, Washington, USA

finishing.com is made possible by ...
this text gets replaced with bannerText
spacer gets replaced with bannerImages

Q, A, or Comment on THIS thread -or- Start a NEW Thread

Disclaimer: It's not possible to fully diagnose a finishing problem or the hazards of an operation via these pages. All information presented is for general reference and does not represent a professional opinion nor the policy of an author's employer. The internet is largely anonymous & unvetted; some names may be fictitious and some recommendations might be harmful.

If you are seeking a product or service related to metal finishing, please check these Directories:

Chemicals &
Consult'g, Train'g
& Software

About/Contact    -    Privacy Policy    -    ©1995-2022 finishing.com, Pine Beach, New Jersey, USA