This study is a comprehensive, multidisciplinary review of the health and environmental effects of chromium and specific chromium compounds. Approximately 500 references are cited. Chromium is abundant in the earth's crust and is widely dispersed in the environment. It is used extensively in refractory materials and chemicals, as a plating to produce hard and smooth surfaces, to prevent corrosion, and in manufacturing stainless and alloy steels. Major atmospheric emissions of chromium arise from metal producing industries, coal-fired plants, municipal incinerators, and cooling towers. Major releases to water are chiefly from the electroplating metal-finishing, textile, and tanning industries. Harmful effects to man or animals seldom result from chromium in ambient air or public drinking water. Reported chromium toxicity occurs mainly from occupational exposure. Trivalent compounds are not highly toxic, but excessive exposure to dusts or mists of hexavalent chromium compounds produces dermatitis, skin lesions, and ulceration and perforation of the nasal septum, as well as liver and kidney damage. With long-term exposure to haxavalent chromium compounds, incidence of human lung cancer increases. No data suggest that these compounds are mutagenic or teratogenic risks. Trace levels of chromium are essential to mammalian life. Irreversible metabolic damage may result from long-standing chromium deficiency. As a result of the refinement of many foods, diets in the United States are often low in chromium; organs of Americans usually contain less chromium than corresponding organs of people from other nations. Except in the lungs, tissue chromium content decreases progressively with age, which suggests that intake of the biologically active chromium in the United States is marginal. (ERA citation 03:048908)
Prepared for Health Effects Research Laboratory, Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Cincinnati, Ohio. Includes bibliographies.