Consumer exposure to chromium-6 | Dutch study

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ABSTRACT - In recent years, the issue of employees who have been exposed to Chromium-6 when repairing defence equipment and trains has come to the fore. Chromium-6 is also used as an ingredient in rust-resistant paint for buildings such as houses and offices. Exposure to this hazardous substance can be harmful to human health. The question is whether people are exposed to dangerous levels of chromium-6 through everyday products in their day-to-day lives. Recent RIVM research has shown that this exposure is low and does not pose a risk to health. Chromium-6 is no longer permitted in many products. Furthermore, consumers can only be exposed to chromium-6 unintentionally, through the air when certain products containing chromium-6 are being processed, (e.g. welding, sawing, sanding or burning). In the absence of such activities, no chromium-6 is released from these products and there is no risk to consumers. 

Consumer products made from chromed metal contain small amounts of chromium-6 (such as taps or buttons). In addition, some products that contain chromium may contain chromium-6 as an impurity, and chromium-6 is sometimes used as a preservative in cement and during the tanning of leather, or to protect wood against weathering. The study also looked at possible exposure via food, drinking water and air. Food naturally contains chromium-3, a less harmful form of chromium, but only in very small amounts. Very small quantities may also be present in water and air. 

Exposure to chromium-6 can cause a contact allergy when people are exposed to it via the skin. However, the concentrations in consumer products are so low that, as far as we know, they do not cause any allergic reactions. Workplace studies have shown that various forms of cancer may develop if chromium-6 is inhaled. At present, we have insufficient knowledge of the extent to which consumers are unintentionally exposed to chromium-6 due to the non-professional activities described above. It is therefore important that consumers are made aware of the potential dangers if they are working with chromium-based products themselves. For example, people should be made aware that it is forbidden to burn processed wood. 

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