What is chromium?
Chromium is a metal that is widely distributed in the earth’s crust (soil and rocks), air and water. Naturally occurring chromium occurs mainly in the chromium (III) form as chromite
ore, which contains oxygen, chromium (III) and other metals such as iron. Chromium (VI) compounds are produced commercially from chromite ore for a wide variety of uses.
How does chromium get into the environment? Chromium occurs naturally in rocks, soil, plants and animals and land erosion causes release of chromium into water. However the major sources of chromium (III and VI) in the air, soil and water are through combustion of fossil fuels and from domestic and industrial waste.
How will I be exposed to Chromium?
We can be exposed to Chromium through the air we breathe and by consuming water and food containing chromium. We can also be exposed to chromium by inhaling cigarette smoke, and from skin contact with certain consumer products that contain chromium. Chromium (III) is an essential trace element, which is required by our bodies to help break down glucose and fat and is considered to be present in foodstuffs as chromium (III). Workers employed in industries that use or produce chromium-containing compounds, such as tanneries, manufacture or use of chromates and chrome pigments and metal industries may be exposed to higher levels of chromium than the general population.
If there is chromium in the environment will I have any adverse health effects? The presence of chromium (III and VI) in the environment does not always lead to exposure.
Clearly, in order for chromium (III and VI) to cause any adverse health effects you must come into contact with it. You may be exposed by breathing, eating, or drinking the substance or by skin contact. Following exposure to any chemical, the adverse health effects you may encounter depend on several factors, including the amount to which you are exposed (dose), the way you are exposed, the duration of exposure, the form of the chemical and if you are exposed to any other chemicals. Breathing in chromium (VI) for a short period of time causes irritation of the airways, cough and chest pain whereas swallowing it can cause abdominal pain, diarrhoea and heart failure, as well as damaging the gut, liver and kidneys. If skin is in contact with chromium (VI), dermatitis or skin ulcers may develop if left untreated. Breathing in chromium (III) compounds for a long time causes swelling of the airways.
Chromium in Water:
Low levels of chromium 3 may naturally occur in water after it has passed through various mineral deposits and rock strata. The standard is health related and has a large safety factor built in.
There should be no Chromium 6 in drinking water. Prescribed concentration value (PCV) total chromium value is 50 micrograms/litre in the UK.
Chromium 6 in soil and water
There are some simple test kits available to measure suspected higher levels of Chromium:
This test kit will measure 0-750mg/l chromium hexavalent (Chromium 6)
Chromium test papers
This test paper allows the quick and easy detection of Chromate (CrO43-). Cr(III) ions must be converted to chromate prior to the detection. For non-destructive testing of materials apply a drop of acid solution (1 part hydrochloric acid 37 % + 4 parts hydrogen peroxide 3 %) to the degreased surface. After 10-30 seconds add a drop sodium hydroxyde (NaOH). Press the test paper onto the precipitate then put it into diluted sulphuric acid. In the presence of chromium, a violet spot appears. With this procedure Chromium contents >0,1% are safely detected.
Detection limit: 5mg/l
Palintest Chromium test kit 0.2-10mg/l Item 1161633
Palintest 7500 photometer with Bluetooth and carry case Item 1199139
Tubetest heater Item 1177601
If you don’t have laboratory pipettes you will also need:
Pipettor 1 1 ml Item 1177596
Pipettor 2 2ml Item 1177594