Hexavalent chromium or Cr(IV) is considered to be a highly toxic chemical, but it is still in use. People can get exposed to this man-made chemical in industrial environment, especially if they come in the touch and inhale dust, mist or chromium fumes. Everyone working in processes that include thermal cutting, making stainless steel or chrome plating can be exposed to chromium. Removal or application of the paint containing chromate or working in production of chromic acid or chromate pigments can also cause chromium exposure.
The effects of hexavalent chromium to your health, if you have been in contact with this substance, will depend on your health, time of exposure and the concentration of hexavalent chromium you have been exposed to. Depending on the part of your body that came into contact with this toxic substance, you can experience damage to your eyes, nose, throat, skin, lungs or other parts of the respiratory system.
Working with hexavalent chromium requires safety measures at all times. Adequate clothes and equipment are necessity for people handling this toxic substance, as well as regular check-ups at the doctors. Proper treatment of any medical problem that appeared is a must under these circumstances.
Inhaling Hexavalent Chromium
Inhaling chromium usually causes mild symptoms. High concentrations of hexavalent chromium can cause breathing problems, runny nose, sneezing and coughing. Nosebleeds, red eyes and itchiness of the eyes and nose are frequent problems. People exposed to this chemical can also complain about irritation and burning in the throat. There were some reported allergic reactions to hexavalent chromium, which included wheezing, shortness of breath and some other signs and symptoms of asthma.
Direct Skin Contact with Chromium
Skin contact with hexavalent chromium may cause swelling, skin rashes, itching and redness. This type of skin reaction is not a mild one, and can be induced by handling the liquid or solid chromium which came into direct contact with the skin. People allergic to this substance will experience extensive skin reaction even if their skin was exposed to chromium just for a moment. Others may also suffer from open sores caused by hexavalent chromium, which usually heals very slowly, leaving scars.
Long-Term Exposure to Hexavalent Chromium
After some time, exposure to hexavalent chromium can also cause perforation of the wall between the nasal passages, or perforated eardrums. Cancers such as sinus, lung and nasal cancers are associated with the inhalation or ingestion of hexavalent chromium, and these are the worst case scenario after the exposure to this very toxic substance.