Fact Sheet: Chromium


Brief Overview:
Contaminant: Chromium
Category: Inorganic
Treatment: Coagulation/Filtration, Ion Exchange, RO

Chromium is a metal found in natural deposits as ores containing other elements. The greatest use of chromium is in metal alloys such as stainless steel; protective coatings on metal; magnetic tapes; and pigments for paints, cement, paper, rubber, composition floor covering and other materials. Its soluble forms are used in wood preservatives.

Production of the most water soluble forms of chromium, the chromate and dichromates, was in the range of 250,000 tons in 1992. Though chromium occurs in nature mostly as chrome iron ore and is widely found in soils and plants, it is rare in natural waters. The two largest sources of chromium emission in the atmosphere are from the chemical manufacturing industry and combustion of natural gas, oil, and coal.

From 1987 to 1993, according to the Toxics Release Inventory, chromium compound releases to land and water totaled nearly 200 million pounds. These releases were primarily from industrial organic chemical industries. The largest releases occurred in Texas and North Carolina. The largest direct releases to water occurred in Georgia and Pennsylvania.

What happens to Chromium when it is released to the environment? When released to land, chromium compounds bind to soil are not likely to migrate to ground water. They are very persistent in water as sediments. There is a high potential for accumulation of chromium in aquatic life.

Short-term: EPA has found chromium to potentially cause the following health effects when people are exposed to it at levels above the MCL for relatively short periods of time: skin irritation or ulceration.

Long-term: Chromium has the potential to cause the following effects from a lifetime exposure at levels above the MCL: damage to liver, kidney circulatory and nerve tissues; skin irritation.

Coagulation/Filtration, Ion Exchange, Reverse Osmosis, Lime Softening