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Effects derived from long-term low-level chromium exposure in ferro-alloy metallurgy. Study of absorption and renal function in workers

The Science of The Total Environment
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0048-9697(88)90211-2
  • Biology


Abstract Ferro-chromium production is based on the use of chromium oxide (III) and it is generally accepted that chromium in this form is not able to cross biological barriers. However, the data on the toxic and carcinogenic effects of hexavalent chromium in man are now firmly established. Some studies have questioned these data, calling for a clarification as to whether exposure to trivalent chromium can also produce human effects, perhaps with different latency time. A study was carried out on the exposure conditions (type and degree) in a ferro-chromium foundry that had been in operation since 1972. The absorption levels in the working population of the foundry, and the possible toxic effects on the kidney have been investigated. A total of 236 workers (142 employed in production departments, 33 office workers and 61 sub-contractor employees) were examined with measurement of the indicators of dose (urinary-chromium) and of effect on the kidney (albumin, retinol binding protein, and renal tubular epithelium antigens in the urine). Environmental hygiene measurements showed relatively low values of total chromium in the air (always < 0.160 mg/m 3). Hexavalent chromium was absent or, if present, at levels below the sensitivity of the analytical method used (0.001 mg/m 3). The values of urinary chromium measured at the beginning and at the end of the working day and at the end of the work shift were always < 5 μg/g creatinine, which has been proposed as a biological limit in chromium exposure. However, differences were observed between groups of subjects employed on different jobs, which is indicative of an absorption process varying according to the degree of exposure. The indicators of effect did not reveal any renal impairment, even early, that could be attributed to the toxic action of chromium.

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