Risks of working with stainless steel – Chromium 6
Chromium 6, also called hexavalent chromium, is released into the air when welding or hot-working stainless steel and acid steel. It’s also used in anti-corrosion coatings.
Breathing in or letting the skin come into contact with chromium 6 is a serious health risk.
Chromium 6 causes allergic skin irritation, and irritation and inflammation in the nose and respiratory tract. Also DNA damage has been associated with exposure to chromium 6.
A prolonged or repeated exposure to chromium 6 may cause damage to the nose such as ulcers and holes in the nasal septum between the nostrils, inflammations in the lungs, allergic reactions in the respiratory tract such as allergic asthma, kidney damage and, according to some studies problems in male fertility and the development of the fetus.
Chromium 6 has also been proven to be a carcinogen. Breathing in airborne chromium 6 increases lung and sinus cancer risk.
How to avoid exposure? It is obvious that serious safety measures need to be taken where exposure to Chromium 6 is possible.
Proper clothing, protective equipment and efficient air extraction can protect the workers. Other people using the premises need to be protected, as well. An efficient air purification system in the premises can ensure that exposure to harmful substances is minimized.
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Detailed information on Chromium 6 is available at the US Department of Labor pages.