What Are The Sources Of Exposure To Chromium In The Environment?

A piece of chromium.
A piece of chromium.

What Is Chromium?

Chromium is a heavy metal that occurs naturally and is of high value in the industrial world. This metal exposes human beings to health-related issues. Environmental discharge of Chromium is mostly from industries. Otherwise, natural sources can be used to discharge them. Industries that release chromium in large quantities are those that process metal, weld stainless steel, operate on leather tanning, or produce chromate. Most of the products used by human beings like stainless cooking utensils, leather finished with chromium, and wood treated using copper dichromate contains chromium. According to Blacksmith Institute, South Asia holds 75% chromium sites due to a large number of tannery activities.

Sources Of Chromium

The primary sources of chromium are mainly through industrial activities, like the leather industry, which deals with animal slaughter and the procedure of making raw leather into a long-lasting material. This method of tanning uses chromium widely all through its processes. Hence, wastes from tanneries are a dangerous source of toxic substances with chrome released into the environment causing the risen concentration of chromium.

Sources Of Exposure To Chromium

This metal is in air, food, water, and soil. Human beings are exposed to chromium through inhalation of air, intake, or the skin being exposed to the chemical. Chromium III and chromium VI are the two forms of chromium. Chromium III is the most stable element form. Chromium III occurs naturally in animals, plants, soil, and rocks whereas chromium VI does not occur in nature, hence a product of the study of human origin.

Chromium affects human beings health wise depending on the contact form and the type of chromium. When human beings inhale chromium, it damages the respiratory system. Gastrointestinal effects are due to oral exposure, but not through skin contact. The respiratory problems and gastrointestinal problems are some of the major health hazards of chromium. Chromium VI is the chief agent known to cause various kind of cancers. In most cases, it causes respiratory cancer due to its exposure through inhalation. According to the World Health Organization, more than 8,000 tannery workers in India are suffering from problems related to stomach and intestines, as well as skin related diseases. A large number of these people, of up to 90%, die before 50 years of age.

Chromium III has less effect on human health, although some research shows that constant exposure to it would equally destroy lymphocyte DNA. It can also lead to an inability to metabolize iron and hence the occurrence of iron deficiency anemia.


Water from the ground that is polluted with chromium VI is made clean by adding an electron donor into the wells to change chromium VI into less poisonous chromium III. Moreover, solid waste (of chromium) in the soil that causes health threat is removed or excavated to reduce its contamination. In addition, use of particular bacteria, which is tolerant to salt like the ones from Arthrobacter species, helps in lessening the chromium levels in soil contaminated by waste from the tanneries. Charring animal bones is another solution to getting rid of chromium from water.


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