-- The Home Page of the Finishing Industry
23+ years of serious education, promoting Aloha,
& the most fun you can have in metal finishing smiley
    no popups, no spam
on this site
current topics
topic 5987

Human Exposure to Chromium Fumes


What are the long-term health effects to employees, working in the Chrome Plating department, having no protection against the fumes coming off the open chromium vat? There was a complaint filed with OSHA in 1999, giving details of how the sprinkler system was eaten away by these fumes. The response from OSHA, was...The problem was corrected when the sprinklers were replaced. What about the employees that breathed these fumes, during the twenty years, while the sprinklers were being eaten away?

Jane Salisbury
- Durham, North Carolina USA


I'm no chemical expert , but I was a plater , and have ran hard chrome many years ago.....

Chrome by its nature is nasty doubt your already aware of that...but even the most rudimentary setups I've seen have run exhaust.... Also , the mist tends to rise to ceiling level , which cause things "up there" to get the corrosion....something tells me if someone had 20 years of bad chrome exposure they would have known about it 10 yr back.

I know osha has exposure past experience with them tells says if they thought there was even a remote possibility of overexposure....employees would have been wearing meters....

Ron Landrette
plating equipment supplier - Bristol, Connecticut


We are people from the plating industry here, Ms. Salisbury, not M.D.s or epidemiologists, so take it only for what it's worth, but . . .

1). I doubt that the corrosion of the sprinklers was caused by the chrome plating bath itself. Chromium plating solutions are not terribly corrosive to metal; in fact, plain sheet metal ducting is/was frequently used for exhausting and conveying away the mists; and chromate passivation solutions which are somewhat similar to chrome plating solutions are used as a corrosion preventative. The sprinklers were probably corroded by fumes from a muriatic (hydrochloric) acid stripping or pickling solution.

2). Employees in most plating shops do not wear respirators against chrome plating fumes. Wearing a respirator all day is a hellish way to work. But chrome plating solutions should have local exhaust hoods and utilize fume suppressants.

3). Yes, chrome plating fumes are unhealthful. It has been established since 1928 that they can cause slow-healing sores known as "chrome ulcers", and nasal perforations known as "chrome holes". For many years the fumes have been considered a possible carcinogen. I think they are now considered either a probable or proven carcinogen, but this is a determination you have to get from NIOSH, not from me.

4). As general background on how dangerous chrome plating fumes are or aren't, I highly recommend NIOSH Technical Report 85-102, "Control Technology Assessment: Metal Plating & Cleaning Operations" which summarizes and references numerous studies of the subject over the last 60 years.

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


This is my opinion.

OSHA has the choice on how to handle the complaint of the sprinklers. They were replaced, so there is no longer a fire hazard. File closed. A knowledgeable case worker might have wanted to look at the larger problem, but is not obligated to.

EPA is responsible for the clean air act. While this is primarily aimed at what leaves the building, i.e., scrubber efficiency, the solid waste section is interested in a build up of chrome in other places that is haz waste and is not being properly or timely handled. Not too many inspectors want to travel into this uncharted water. They are checklist followers and that is not in their checklist.

I do believe that OSHA did put into effect a chrome protocol which involves a lot of record keeping and annual physicals. This is quite similar to the cadmium protocol that went into effect about 10 years ago.

In short, you have to ask the right question to the right agency.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida


I am an unabashed tree-hugger, but in a chrome plating shop, I would guess it was the hydrochloric acid fumes that ate away the sprinkler heads, not the chrome fumes.

So the long term health of the workers in that shop may not be obvious, since even well-ventilated shops have enough acid around to corrode nickel and chromium plated steel.

tom pullizzi monitor
Tom Pullizzi
Falls Township,


OSHA limit chromium (VI) to 100 micrograms per cubic metre for any period, and NOISH 1 microgram for a 10 hour day.

Plating with chromic acid can cause Ulceration of the skin and nasal lining and Occupational cancer this from our COSHH reg's they require regular medical inspections and records kept.

If the sprinkler is corroded by hydrochloric acid, and not chrome fumes then it's still not healthy.

Ian Brooke
university - Glasgow, Scotland


I live along a salt water lagoon, Ian. Everything metallic, whether it be deck furniture or an iron fireplace, corrodes rapidly. Are you saying that exposure to salt water mist must therefore be unhealthy?

I pretty much agree with you, and believe that exposure to hydrochloric acid fumes is not good for one's health. I'm only saying that the degree of corrosion in a plating shop is not necessarily a good indication of whether or not the conditions are causing long term damage to workers' health.

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

December 23, 2010

I am a disabled person who can tell you with certainty, that Chromic Acid compounds Are definitely dangerous. I have no Idea who the Idiot is that says " its the HCl, Acetic, Muriatic Acids not the chrome". This man is slow on the uptake, Once an acid is mixed with chrome it does not separate, Hence the Term Chromic Acid. If you notice The person does not mention the dilute rate of chromic acid to H2O. I can describe to you the nature of this, If you take 1 Cup of Chromic Acid add it to 1 Gallon of pure water what you end up with is 136 ozs. of chromic acid. The CDC in Atlanta equates Hexavalent Chromium exactly with Chromic Acid. Ever see "ERIN BROCKOVICH" ? This is a true story! I have the nosebleeds, headaches, Hep C and Ruined Kidneys to prove it.

Mark Underwood
Replace or Repair Scrubbers, Ductwork, Fume Hoods and assoc. equip. - Louisville, Kentucky USA

December 31, 2010

Hi, Mark. Sorry for your hardships. Yes, chromic acid compounds are very dangerous, universally recognized as such for 100 years in countless studies, probably carcinogenic, probably responsible for your nosebleeds, and possibly responsible for some or all of your other symptoms. "Erin Brockovich" [link is to movie info at Amazon] has been mentioned well over a dozen times on this site. Chromic acid is H2CrO4 and dry chromic acid flake is CrO3 and in any case the chromium is definitely hexavalent.

Even still, it is inappropriate to call other people "idiots" and "slow on the uptake", especially when it is you who has misunderstood them. Several of the readers who have spent our careers traveling from plating shop to plating shop and have been to many hundreds of them are trying to tell people that metal corrosion is not a good indication of chrome fumes, nor is lack of corrosion an indication of a safe environment.

Consider that the sheet metal ductwork for chrome exhaust systems was, for decades, made of plain steel because, as dangerous as hexavalent chromium is to people, it is not particularly corrosive to metal. On the other hand, environments as benign as an oceanfront house are highly corrosive to metal. The way to deal with chromium fumes is to control them with properly designed systems, monitor the operators and their surrounding environment, and keep a watchful eye for signs of chrome in the area -- which include yellow dusts, and orange stains and burns -- but not be misled by corrosion or a lack of corrosion because chromium is not corrosive (to steel).


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

December 31, 2010

chrome mixed with bituminous dust specks as a result of a roof top vat. taking up the roof caused contact lens damage and 30 tears have copd, chroma situation cause?

Dave j Baird
- tunwater Washington

December 31, 2010

Hi, David. Although the situation you are trying to describe is clear to you, I am not following it. Please spend a few paragraphs so people can try to help you. A rooftop vat (a reservoir for a cooling tower, maybe?) mixed with roofing material (by overflowing or something?). Whose contact lenses were damaged, a roofer or occupants of the building? Someone has COPD that they feel may have been caused by working on this roof or living in this building? 30 tears = 30 years? Please take it from the top. Thanks.


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

This public forum has 60,000 threads. If you have a question in mind which seems off topic to this thread, you might prefer to Search the Site

ADD a Comment to THIS thread START a NEW threadView CURRENT TOPICS

Disclaimer: It's not possible to 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 may be deliberately harmful.

  If you need a product/service, please check these Directories:

JobshopsCapital Equip. & Install'nChemicals & Consumables Consult'g, Train'g, SoftwareEnvironmental ComplianceTesting Svcs. & Devices

©1995-2018, Inc., Pine Beach, NJ   -   About   -  Privacy Policy
How Google uses data when you visit this site.