Hexavalent chromium (chromium(VI), Cr(VI)) refers to chemical compounds that contain the element chromium in the +6 oxidation state. Virtually all chromium ore is processed via hexavalent chromium, specifically the salt sodium dichromate. Approximately 136,000 tonnes (300,000,000 lb) of hexavalent chromium were produced in 1985. Other hexavalent chromium compounds are chromium trioxide and various salts of chromate and dichromate. Hexavalent chromium is used in textile dyes, wood preservation, and as anti-corrosion and conversion coatings and a variety of niche uses. Chromium hexavalent compounds exist in several forms. Industrial uses of hexavalent chromium compounds include chromate pigments in dyes, paints, inks, and plastics; chromates added as anticorrosive agents to paints, primers, and other surface coatings; and chromic acid electroplated onto metal parts to provide a decorative or protective coating. Hexavalent chromium can be formed when performing "hot work" such as welding on stainless steel or melting chromium metal. In these situations the chromium is not originally hexavalent, but the high temperatures involved in the process result in oxidation that converts the chromium to a hexavalent state.(29 CFR OSHA General Industry 1910)
Inhaled hexavalent chromium is recognized as a human carcinogen. Workers in many occupations are exposed to hexavalent chromium. Problematic exposure is known to occur among workers who handle chromate-containing products and those who weld, grind, or braze stainless steel. Within the European Union, the use of hexavalent chromium in electronic equipment is largely prohibited by the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive.
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