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topic 48245

How toxic is chrome plating

A discussion started in 2008 but continuing through 2018

March 20, 2008

Q. 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

A. 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

Q. Thanks.
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 [returning]
student - College Park, Maryland

March 25, 2008

A. 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 contact dermatitis (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, that catalysts speed the process, and that fine nickel powders are used in order to present a 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 negligible.

The conversation will probaby attract more of the potential responders who you are trying to engage if you will state your thesis, or give the context of where you are going, rather than spoon feeding us a string hypothetical questions :-)

Thanks. Good luck!

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

January 10, 2018

Q. Yesterday I ordered "chrome" dumbbells from Amazon. At the time I was thinking they were less toxic (to the environment during manufacturing and to me as the end user) than the variety of covered bells out there for sale. Without further information, would you agree? Is there any reason to believe without chipping that it it ingested through the skin like the junk jewelry metals (cadmium for instance)? Thank you for any insight. Sue

Susan Corrigan
- Washington, DC, USA

January 2018

A. Hi Susan. Unfortunately, it's not possible for people to do much but guess :-(

When something is advertised as "chrome" these days, it actually means nothing except that it is bright and the general color of chrome plating. It might be "chrome-look paint", or zinc plating with a clearcoat paint over it, or actual nickel-chrome plating.

But assuming that it is real nickel-chrome plating, it poses no acute danger ... although some people are allergic to nickel or acquire allergy to it ("nickel itch)". Since the USA has no prohibition yet against nickel even in rings worn 24/7 or in pierced jewelry, I don't think nickel-chrome dumbbells will realistically be a problem, and barbell handles were/are nickel-chrome plating for decades -- but you could wrap the handle with duct tape or clear packaging tape if you wish. Enjoy.


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

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