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I've heard that chromium can be harmful to my employees, and possibly for my customers. Can you tell me about chromium, and what the possible effects are from exposure?

Chromium can exist in oxidation states ranging from -2 to 6, but it is mostly found in the trivalent (CrIII) and hexavalent (CrVI) oxidation states. CrIII is naturally found in rocks, soils, plants, animals, and volcanic emissions. This form of chromium is believed by many to play a nutritional role in the human body. CrVI is the most toxic form of chromium and is produced in industrial environments when CrIII is heated in the presence of mineral bases and atmospheric oxygen—as in metal finishing processes. CrVI is found in the acid used in hot-dip galvanizing quench baths and has been used as a 0.15% wt. sodium chromate solution to prevent wet storage stain on hot-dip galvanized parts. It is the aggressive oxidizing behavior of chromium that makes exposure to CrVI such a dangerous health risk. A person can be exposed to chromium by eating or drinking contaminated food or water, breathing contaminated air, skin contact, or living near uncontrolled hazardous waste sites that contain chromium particles. Small amounts of CrVI that are ingested will not necessarily harm you, however, accidental ingestion of larger amounts can cause stomach upsets and ulcers, convulsions, kidney and liver damage, and even death. The levels of CrVI that cause these effects are far greater than those you might be exposed to in any type of food or regulated water sources. Chromium compounds in the air are mostly present as fine dust particles, which eventually settle over land.

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