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How toxic is chrome

March 20, 2008

Hi. I have read that chrome baths involve using chromium VI and other toxic substances. I am wondering, is a chrome-covered object dangerous if the chrome is starting to flake off? In other words, is the chrome finish itself toxic if its inhaled or ingested?

And if chrome finish isn't toxic, then how can it get from being dangerous during the application process to becoming harmless? Thanks

Chris Yu
student - College Park, Maryland

March 21, 2008

Simple--Chrome metal has a valence of 0 while chrome in a conventional chrome plating solution has a valence of +6..

Major difference!

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida

March 25, 2008

I also read that HCl can oxidize chrome metal with a valence of zero into trivalent chrome. Hypothetically, if a person vomits onto a chrome plated object, does that chrome become oxidized into trivalent chrome?

Also, I read that decorative chrome plating found on most household objects are nickel-chrome plated. When some of the chrome is chipping off, does that expose the nickel underneath? Will that nickel react with carbon monoxide (i.e., from a gas stove) to form nickel carbonyl?

Chris Yu
student - College Park, Maryland

March 25, 2008

I don't know whether enough stomach acid is released to actually dissolve any of the chrome, Chris, and it's hard to imagine a more distasteful experiment :-)

But trivalent chrome is a "health food" supplement, so there is certainly little danger from it. Similarly, nickel is widely used without any chrome overplate, and poses little hazard except that some people acquire nickel-induced dermititis (nickel itch). I don't know the exact process for manufacturing nickel carbonyl, but I understand that it is usually done at elevated temperature and pressure, catalysts speed the process, and fine nickel powders are used in order to present very large surface area. I would imagine that the rate of production from exposing a nickel plated object to the reducing region of a gas flame would be negligable.

The conversation would attract more of the potential responders who you are trying to engage if you would give the context of where you are going, rather than spoon feeding us a narrow question at a time :-)


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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