Chromium is a lustrous, hard steel-grey metal. It has the symbol of Cr and the atomic number 24. The pure metal is brittle and magnetic, but when alloyed, it can be malleable. Chromium is also found in chromium compounds, chromates and in chromic acid. Most chromium compounds have been classified as either Category 1A or Category 1B carcinogens: presumed or shown to cause cancer in humans. [1,2,3,4]

Uses [5]

Chromium is used across various industries. It is primarily used as an alloy (ferrochrome) in the production of stainless steel and chrome plating. Chromium is used as it has a high corrosion resistance and hardness. The metal is also used across the tanning, glassmaking, wood preservation and reflective paint industries.

Routes of Exposure [2]

Chromium III naturally occurs in rocks, soil and plants, and foods high in the metal include green beans and broccoli.

Occupations, such as chrome plating, stainless steel welding and cutting, or leather tanning, are potential routes of exposure for the metal.

Health Effects

Chromium poisoning affects a range of systems, including the respiratory and integumentary systems.

Acute Effects [2]

Severity of symptoms depend on the level and type of exposure.

Acute exposure to the metal can result in chrome ulcers and/or perforation of the nasal septum

Chromium exposure can result in allergic dermatitis, which can be very persistent once developed.

Short-term poisoning can result in respiratory effects, including airway irritation and obstruction.

Exposure can lead to hepatic necrosis.

Chronic Effects [2]

Chromium is toxic to multiple body systems. Long-term exposure to the metal can cause chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, including bronchopneumonia, chronic bronchitis, chronic inflammation of the lung, and emphysema. Chromium is also a known carcinogen; inhalation of the metal has been shown to result in lung cancer. Chronic exposure effects to the metal also include gastrointestinal effects, nephrotoxicity and hepatotoxicity.


~h2First Aid Measures [6]

  • Ingestion: DO NOT INDUCE VOMITING. Loosen any tight clothing, and contact a medical professional.
  • Skin contact: Immediately rinse affected areas with plenty of water, and cover contaminated areas with an emollient. Remove all contaminated clothing, footwear and accessories. Do not re-wear clothing until it has been thoroughly decontaminated. Contact a doctor immediately.
  • Eye contact: Check for and remove contact lenses if easy to do so. Flush eyes with water for at least 15 minutes, and get medical attention immediately.
  • Inhalation: Take victim to the nearest fresh air source and monitor their breathing. Keep the victim warm. If the victim is not breathing, and you are qualified, you may perform CPR with a one-way valve or protective mask. Immediately contact a medical professional. 
  • General: Never administer anything by mouth to an unconscious, exposed person.

  • Exposure Controls/Personal Protection [6]

  • Engineering controls: Emergency eyewash fountains and safety showers should be accessible in the immediate area of the potential exposure. Ensure there is adequate ventilation. Use a local exhaust ventilation or process enclosure to limit the amount of chromium in the air.

  • Personal protection: Safety glasses, protective and dustproof clothing, gloves, an apron and an appropriate mask or dusk respirator. For specifications regarding other PPE, Follow the guidelines set in your jurisdiction.

Regulation [4]

~h2United States:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set an 8-hour time weighted average (TWA) concentration limit for chromium of 1mg/m3.

Australia [7]

Safe Work Australia has set an 8-hour time TWA for chromium compounds as follows:

Chromium compound

Eight hour time weightedaverage (TWA; mg/m3)

Chromium (II) compounds(as Cr)


Chromium (III) compounds(as Cr)


Chromium (metal)


Chromium (VI) compounds(as Cr) certain water insoluble


Chromium (VI) compounds(as Cr), water soluble


Source is Reference 2, p. 7.