Hexavalent Chromium Health Effects: What Are Its Industrial Uses?

Interaction with certain chemicals and minerals in the environment and in work places may cause several health related issues in human beings. Hexavalent chromium is one such compound which when comes in contact with humans give rise to many health issues. Chromium is found in nature and three different forms of chromium are present. The first is metallic chromium, the second is trivalent chromium and the third is hexavalent chromium.

Hexavalent chromium is most dangerous form among the three that can cause unwanted health effects on your body. It is formed when trivalent chromium is heated and gets interacted with oxygen and other minerals.

A person is exposed to hexavalent chromium in many ways; the fumes of hexavalent chromium may be inhaled while working in a factory producing stainless steel, or welding stainless steel, chrome plating, thermal cutting etc. Handling of paints containing chromate pigments can be a concern for your health. Besides, contamination of hexavalent chromium in drinking water can be a health hazard.

Adverse Health Effects Of Hexavalent Chromium

There are several adverse health effects noted with hexavalent chromium on human body. It affects many organs of the body. It is considered as potential carcinogen, especially for lungs.

The severity of its effect on health depends on the amount of its exposure, either through inhalation or ingestion.  Let us know some of the major side effects of hexavalent chromium on our health.

  • When the fumes come in contact with your face it causes running nose, burning eyes, itching sensation in mouth and throat.
  • With high concentration of hexavalent chromium, the liver and digestive organs are considerably damaged. This happens mostly when the water filters are chromed with hexavalent chromium. Ingestion of water from these filters may not be beneficial for your health in a long run.
  • Repeated exposure to high amount of hexavalent chromium can cause lung cancer. Workers who regularly come across hexavalent chromium are vulnerable to this dreaded disease.
  • Skin ulcers, skin allergies and contact dermatitis are some of the side effects of hexavalent chromium.
  • Ulceration in the nose, bleeding from the nose, cancer of nose, sinus cancer etc are some of the dangerous hexavalent chromium occupational health hazards.
  • The toxicity of hexavalent chromium damages the immune system of the body.

Despite knowing the side effects of Hexavalent chromium, it is still used for industrial purposes.

Industrial Uses Of Hexavalent Chromium

Some of industrial uses of Hexavalent chromium are:

  • Chrome plating: Aside from its decorative and shining quality, electro chrome plating is used for its anti corrosive, heat resistant properties. Therefore it is largely used in jet engines, boats, and marine products, furniture and fixtures. It protects the substance from corrosion and increases its life span.
  • Dyes and pigments: It is used in paints, inks, textile and plastics. It is also used to tan the leather.
  • Stainless steel: Due to vast industrialization all over the world, Hexavalent chromium is used immensely in various alloy manufacturing units. Hexavalent chromium has its maximum use in steel industry.

A careful study of hexavalent chromium and its effect on health certainly outweighs its use for industrial purposes. For better human health and in the interest of human society at large, an alternative and non toxic material needs to replace hexavalent chromium.