What is Chromium Toxicity?

Chromium and chromium compounds are widely used in industry.  Chromium is a hard, brittle metal known for its lustre and used in chrome plating and creating stainless steel finishes. Not all kinds of chromium are poisonous.  However, certain kinds of chromium such as hexavalent chromium can be highly toxic and is known to cause serious long term health problems.

Who is at Risk of Chromium Poisoning?

People can be exposed to chromium toxicity in a number of ways.  Chromium is used in the manufacturing process for paints, pottery and ceramics and in the drying process for silk and wool.  There are many other industrial applications for chromium and chromium compounds. Chromium exposure can occur:

  • From breathing in contaminated dust
  • Via skin contact
  • By eating, drinking or smoking in places where chromium is used

What are the Symptoms of Chromium Poisoning?

Exposure to chromium can produce a large number of symptoms dependent on how the exposure occurred. Symptoms include:

  • Chrome Ulcers – lesions with raised edges which appear on the skin after exposure.  They are not malignant but they can be painful and can become infected.
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Vertigo
  • Fever
  • Muscle cramps
  • Excessive bleeding from cuts
  • Kidney failure
  • Anaemia due to the toxicity causing the abnormal breakdown of red blood cells
  • Liver damage
  • Circulatory collapse
  • Acute multisystem organ failure
  • After very high levels of exposure: coma or death

This is not an exhaustive list of symptoms and the way chromium poisoning symptoms manifest depends on the type of exposure and how high the levels of chromium were. If an attack of chromium poisoning occurs after one exposure, this is acute exposure.  Chronic exposure occurs over a number of years.  Chromium levels may be lower, but repeated exposure over time has a cumulative effect.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Chromium Poisoning

If you think you may have been exposed to chromium, you should see a doctor immediately.  Being exposed to low levels of chromium may not produce noticeable symptoms, however, there are a number of straightforward tests your doctor can carry out to determine whether you have chromium in your system including blood and liver tests and urinalysis. Treatment consists of stopping all exposure to chromium and managing the symptoms until the body can rid itself of chromium through its natural elimination processes. In acute cases, where chromium levels are too high for the body to rid itself of the toxin naturally, hospitalisation may be required and mechanical support for the respiratory, cardiovascular and renal systems may be required.

Making a Claim

If you believe you might have been exposed to chromium at work, you may be entitled to claim compensation.  There are statutes of limitations which impose time limits on how long after exposure you may make a claim, so it’s important to seek legal advice as soon as possible. Your solicitor will be able to advise you on the validity of your claim and what you need to do next. To find out more about how Cute Injury can help, get in touch today.

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