Preventing Occupational and Community Exposure Risks to Hexavalent Chromium

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ABIH® reminds workers and industry of the need to protect against exposure to potentially harmful chemical compounds.

Lansing, MI -- Recently, the chemical pollutant made famous in the “Erin Brockovich” movie once again made national headlines. A report released by the Environmental Working Group found what the non-profit organization believes to be potentially dangerous levels of hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) in the tap water of some 218 million Americans. 

Hexavalent chromium is a toxic form of the element chromium. Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not set a limit for hexavalent chromium in drinking water, the report found that water samples taken between 2013 and 2015 by local water utilities found hexavalent chromium at or above 0.03 parts per billion (ppb) in 75% of the samples. The report also indicates that 7 million Americans have tap water with levels over California’s legal limit of 10 ppb. 

Tap water is not the only source of hexavalent chromium exposure for many people. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimate that 558,000 workers are potentially exposed to Cr(VI) in the United States. OSHA states that a major source of worker exposure occurs during 'hot work' such as welding on stainless steel and other alloy steels containing chromium metal. These compounds may also be used as pigments in dyes, paints, inks and plastics or as an anticorrosive agent added to paints, primers and other surface coatings.

“Exposure to hexavalent chromium is known to cause cancer and impacts the respiratory system, kidneys, liver, skin and eyes according to OSHA,” said David Roskelley, CIH® and Chair of ABIH®. “There are specific hexavalent chromium standards to protect workers from exposure risks and Certified Industrial Hygienists are uniquely qualified to conduct risks assessments and monitor exposures to protect both workers and communities.” 

Core competencies of the CIH® program include health risk analysis and hazard communication; chemical and biohazards; air sampling and instrumentational analysis; engineering controls and ventilation; and work environments and industrial processes. This knowledge and the proper use of personal protective equipment can be instrumental in reducing exposure risks to Cr(VI) and other potential hazards.

To learn more about the American Board of Industrial Hygiene®, Certified Industrial Hygienist® credential or to locate a CIH® to perform industrial hygiene services, please visit www.ABIH.org, email abih@ABIH.org or call (517) 321-2638. 

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