HBM4EU chromates study: determinants of exposure to hexavalent chromium in plating, welding and other occupational settings

Susana Viegas, Carla Martins, Beatrice Bocca, Radia Bousoumah, Radu Corneliu Duca, Karen S. Galea, Lode Godderis, Ivo Iavicoli, Beata Janasik, Kate Jones, Elizabeth Leese, Veruscka Leso, Sophie Ndaw, An van Nieuwenhuyse, Katrien Poels, Simo P. Porras, Flavia Ruggieri, Maria João Silva, Jelle Verdonck, Wojciech WasowiczPaul T.J. Scheepers, Tiina Santonen

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Work-related exposures in industrial processing of chromate (chrome plating, surface treatment and welding) raise concern regarding the health risk of hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)). In this study, performed under the HBM4EU project, we focused on better understanding the determinants of exposure and recognising how risk management measures (RMMs) contribute to a reduction in exposure. HBM and occupational hygiene data were collected from 399 workers and 203 controls recruited in nine European countries. Urinary total chromium (U-Cr), personal inhalable and respirable dust of Cr and Cr(VI) and Cr from hand wipes were collected. Data on the RMMs were collected by questionnaires. We studied the association between different exposure parameters and the use of RMMs. The relationship between exposure by inhalation and U-Cr in different worker groups was analysed using regression analysis and found a strong association. Automatisation of Cr electroplating dipping explained lower exposure levels in platers. The use of personal protective equipment resulted in lower U-Cr levels in welding, bath plating and painting. An effect of wearing gloves was observed in machining. An effect of local exhaust ventilation and training was observed in welding. Regression analyses showed that in platers, exposure to air level of 5 µg/m3 corresponds to U-Cr level of 7 µg/g creatinine. In welders, the same inhalation exposure resulted in lower U-Cr levels reflecting toxicokinetic differences of different chromium species.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3683
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022


  • Air monitoring
  • Biomonitoring
  • Dermal exposure
  • Exposure determinants
  • Hexavalent chromium
  • Occupational hygiene
  • Risk management measures


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