Valahia University

Chromium toxicity

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Courtesy of Valahia University

Chromium, in the form of unidentified chromium compounds, occurs naturally in the earth’s crust and is widely distributed in air, water, soil, and food. Chromium (3+) is an essential trace element in humans. The general population is exposed to some chromium (6+) compounds, but the levels of exposure vary. Environmental exposure specifically to chromium(6+) compounds is difficult to quantify, because specific forms of chromium seldom are identified in exposure studies. Although chromium (6+) compounds in the environment may be reduced to chromium (3+) compounds, hexavalent forms can persist under some conditions. The general population may be exposed to chromium (6+) compounds through inhalation of ambient air, ingestion of water, or dermal contact with products that contain chromium (6+) compounds, such as pressure-treated wood. People who live near industrial facilities that use chromium(6+) compounds or near chromium waste disposal sites have the greatest potential for exposure.


A chemical element, Cr, atomic number 24, and atomic weight 51.996, which is the weighted average for several isotopes weighing 50 (4.31%), 52 (83.76%), 53 (9.55%), and 54 (2.38%). The orbital arrangement of the electrons is 1s2, 2s2, 2p6, 3s2, 3p6, 3d5, 4s1. The stability of the half-filled d shell doubtless accounts for this rather unusual arrangement. In the crust of the Earth, chromium is the twenty-first element in abundance, which ranks it along with vanadium, zinc, nickel, and copper. Traces of chromium are present in the human body, in fact, it is essential to life.

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