Baltimore Chromium Residue Cleanup


What is Chromium?

Chromium is a mineral found in rocks, animals, plants and soil. It is also found in byproducts of some types of manufacturing, such as leather tanning and chrome ore processing. Generally, chromium exists in two forms: trivalent chromium and hexavalent chromium. Hexavalent chromium is predominantly man made and it is present in the environment at much lower levels than trivalent chromium.

How does the exposure to either type of chromium affect my health?

Every person needs small amounts of trivalent chromium for proper health. Trivalent chromium is an essential dietary nutrient. It helps the body activate insulin and regulate blood sugar and is found in most fresh foods and drinking water. Dietary sources rich in chromium include breads, cereals, spices, fresh vegetables, meats and fish. Other significant sources of chromium are mineral supplements, brewer’s yeast and beer.

At certain levels, exposure to hexavalent chromium can affect people’s health. Most studies focus on how hexavalent chromium affects people who work with chrome or chrome byproducts because these people are at a greater risk of experiencing adverse health effects.

Studies that compare the health of people who live near sites that contain hexavalent chromium with people who don’t, have found no significant differences in the health of the two groups.

If the health risks are minimal why do workers remediating chromecontaminated sites wear protective clothing?

Workers in such circumstances might come in contact with chromium either in the air, soil or groundwater. OSHA standards apply to worksites like these and are designed to protect workers’ health and safety under real-life workplace conditions.

How might I be exposed to chromium?

You can be exposed to chromium by breathing air, drinking water or eating foods that contain chromium, or through skin contact with chromium. We are all exposed to small amounts of chromium every day.

Will the presence of chromium at the site affect my health?

The presence of a chemical in the environment does not necessarily pose a significant health or environmental risk. For a chemical to pose a significant risk to health, exposure to the chemical must occur. The exposure must be for a significant period of time and in a quantity that has been identified as high enough to result in possible health effects.

Does chromium cause cancer?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found that lung cancer can be caused by continuous exposure over many years to high levels of airborne hexavalent chromium – levels that are many times higher than those allowed in the workplace by OSHA. EPA has not found exposure to trivalent chromium to cause cancer in humans.

A report issued by Dartmouth University called “The Facts on Chromium” states that safer work practices developed in the 1960s greatly reduced the number of workers who were exposed to unsafe levels of hexavalent chromium in their jobs.

Is there hexavalent chromium at Dundalk Marine Terminal?

Yes. There is hexavalent chromium at the Terminal and at many other sites throughout the United States and the world. Until the 1950s, it was a common practice to use ore-processing byproducts – including steel, chromium and other slag type materials – to create additional land.

Where can I get more information on chromium?

Here are links to several websites that provide additional information on chromium. These sites address both workplace exposure and exposure from living on or near land that contains chromium.

U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration

British Medical Journal – Self Reported Health of People in an Area Contaminated by Chromium Waste: Interview Study

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry – Toxicological Profile for Chromium