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EU wide human monitoring study on occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium


The EU human biomonitoring initiative, HBM4EU, aims to co-ordinate and advance human biomonitoring (HBM) across Europe. Within its remit, the project is gathering new, policy relevant, EU-wide data on occupational exposure to relevant priority chemicals and developing new approaches for occupational biomonitoring. Hexavalent chromium, as a carcinogen is in the focus of EU regulation. According to EU regulation (REACH), all companies using Cr(VI) compounds have to apply for authorisation for their uses. More than 100 authorizations for different uses of chromates have already been requested, some of these covering hundreds of workers, which means that potentially thousands of workers are exposed to Cr(VI) in these activities.

Human exposure study to hexavalent chromium
As an example of the HBM4EU initiative, the hexavalent chromium study design has been presented. This study involves eight European countries and plans to recruit 400 workers performing Cr(VI) surface treatment such as electroplating or stainless steel welding. The aim of the study is to collect data on current occupational exposure to Cr(VI) in Europe and to test new methods for Cr biomonitoring beyond traditional urinary total Cr analyses. New methods to be tested for their information value include speciation analysis of Cr(VI) in exhaled breath condensate (EBC) and total Cr in red blood cells (RBC) as a proxy for Cr(VI) exposure. Personal air samples and dust wipe samples are also collected to help the interpretation of biomonitoring results.  Furthermore, exposure data will be complemented with early biological effects data, including genetric and epigenetic effects. The publication of the study design also includes strandard operation procedures (SOPs)  for the collection of the samples.

The original publication:

Tiina Santonen, Alessandro Alimonti, Beatrice Bocca, Radu Corneliu Duca, Karen S. Galea, Lode Godderis, Thomas Göen, Bruno Gomes, Ogier Hanser, Ivo Iavicoli, Beata Janasik, Kate Jones, Mirja Kiilunen, Holger M. Koch, Elizabeth Leese, Veruscka Leso, Henriqueta Louro, Sophie Ndaw, Simo P. Porras, Alain Robert, Flavia Ruggieri, Paul T.J. Scheepers, Maria J. Silva, Susana Viegas, Wojciech Wasowicz, Argelia Castano, Ovnair Sepai, Setting up a collaborative European human biological monitoring study on occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium, Environ. Res., 177 (2019)  108583. DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2019.108583

Related studies

  C.-H. Pan, H.A. Jeng, C.-H. Lai, Biomarkers of oxidative stress in electroplating workers exposed to hexavalent chromium, J. Expo. Sci. Environ. Epidemiol., 28 (2018), 76-83. DOI: 10.1038/jes.2016.85

B. Pesch, M. Lehnert, T. Weiss, B. Kendzia, E. Menne, Exposure to hexavalent chromium in welders: Results of the WELDOX II field study, Ann. Work exposures Health, 62/3 (2018) 351-361. DOI: 10.1093/annweh/wxy004

  C. Nisse, R. Tagne-Fotso, M. Howsam, C. Richeval, L. Labat, A. Leroyer, N. Members Health Examination Centres, Blood and urinary levels of metals and metalloids in the general adult population of Northern France: the IMEPOGE study, 2008-2010, Int. J. Hyg Environ. Health, 220 (2017) 341-363. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2016.09.020

C. Ganzleben, J.P. Antignac, R. Barouki, A. Castańo, U. Fiddicke, J. Klánová, E. Lebret, N. Olea, D. Sarigiannis, G.R. Schoeters, O. Sepai, H. Tolonen, M. Kolossa-Gehring, Human biomonitoring as a tool to support chemicals regulation in the European Union, Int. J. Hyg Environ. Health, 220 (2017) 94-97. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2017.01.007

  M. Gorman Ng, L. MacCalman, S. Semple, M. van Tongeren, Field measurements of inadvertent ingestion exposure to metals, Ann. Work Exposures Health, 61 (2017) 1097-1107. DOI: 10.1093/annweh/wxx071

E. Leese, J. Morton, P.H.E. Gardiner, V.A. Carolan, The simultaneous detection of trivalent & hexavalent chromium in exhaled breath condensate: a feasibility study comparing workers and controls, Int. J. Hyg Environ. Health, 220 (2017) 415-423. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2016.12.003

R.R. Ray, Adverse hematological effects of hexavalent chromium: an overview, Interdiscip. Toxicol., 9 (2016), pp. 55-65. DOI:10.1515/intox-2016-0007

F. Ruggieri, A. Alimonti, B. Bocca, Full validation and accreditation of a method to support human biomonitoring studies for trace and ultra-trace elements, Trac. Trends Anal. Chem., 80 (2016) 471-485. DOI: 10.1016/j.trac.2016.03.023

G. Leng, H. Drexler, A. Hartwig, Chromium and its compounds [BAT value documentation, 2009]. The MAK collection for occupational health and safety, Wiley-VCH, Weinheim, 2016. DOI: 10.1002/3527600418.bb744047anoe1615

J. Devoy, A. Gehin, S. Muller, M. Melczer, A. Remy, G. Antoine, I. Sponne,  Evaluation of chromium in red blood cells as an indicator of exposure to hexavalent chromium: an in vitro study,  Toxicol. Lett., 255 (2016) 63-70. DOI: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2016.05.008

G. Genovese, L. Castiglia, M. Pieri, C. Novi, R. D'Angelo, N. Sannolo, M. Lamberti, M. Miraglia, Occupational Exposure to Chromium of Assembly Workers in Aviation Industries, J. Occup. Environ. Hyg., 12/8 (2015) 518-524. DOI: 10.1080/15459624.2015.1019075

J. Morton, E. Tan, E. Leese, J. Cocker, Determination of 61 elements in urine samples collected from a non-occupationally exposed UK adult population, Toxicol. Lett., 231 (2014) 179-193. DOI: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2014.08.019

P.D. Ray, A. Yosim, R.C. Fry, Incorporating epigenetic data into the risk assessment process for the toxic metals arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury: strategies and challenges, Front. Genet., 5 (2014) 201. DOI: 10.3389/fgene.2014.00201

P. Hoet, C. Jacquerye, G. Deumer, D. Lison, V. Haufroid, Reference values and upper reference limits for 26 trace elements in the urine of adults living in Belgium, Clin. Chem. Lab. Med., 51 (2013) 839-849. DOI: 10.1515/cclm-2012-0688

Andreas Seidler, Sabine Jähnichen, Janice Hegewald, Alba Fishta, Olga Krug, Luisa Rüter, Claudia Strik, Ernst Hallier, Sebastian Straube, Systematic review and quantification of respiratory cancer risk for occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium, Int. Arch. Occup. Environ. Health, 86 (2013) 943–955. DOI 10.1007/s00420-012-0822-0

A. Scarselli, A. Binazzi, D. Di Marzio, A. Marinaccio & Sergio Iavicoli, Hexavalent Chromium Compounds in the Workplace: Assessing the Extent and Magnitude of Occupational Exposure in Italy, J. Occup. Environ. Hyg., 9/6 (2012) 398-407, DOI: 10.1080/15459624.2012.682216

T. Göen, K.H. Schaller, H. Drexler, External quality assessment of human biomonitoring in the range of environmental exposure levels, Int. J. Hyg Environ. Health, 215 (2012) 229-232. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2011.08.012

  X.H. Zhang, X. Zhang, X.C. Wang, L.F. Jin, Z.P. Yang, C.X. Jiang, Q. Chen, X.B. Ren, J.Z. Cao, Q. Wang, Y.M. Zhu, Chronic occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium causes DNA damage in electroplating workers, BMC Public Health, 11 (2011) 224. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2458-11-224

V. Balachandar, M. Arun, S.M. Devi, P. Velmurugan, P. Manikantan, A.K. Kumar, K. Sasikala, C. Venkatesan, Evaluation of the genetic alterations in direct and indirect exposures of hexavalent chromium Cr(VI) in leather tanning industry workers North Arcot District, South India, Int. Arch. Occup. Environ. Health, 83 (2010) 791-801. DOI: 10.1007/s00420-010-0562-y

M. Goldoni, A. Caglieri, G. De Palma, O. Acampa, P. Gergelova, M. Corradi, P. Apostoli, A. Mutti, Chromium in exhaled breath condensate (EBC), erythrocytes, plasma and urine in the biomonitoring of chrome-plating workers exposed to soluble Cr(VI), J. Environ. Monit., 12 (2010) 442-447. DOI: 10.1039/b914673c

P.T.J. Scheepers, G.A.H. Heussen, P.G.M. Peer, K. Verbist, R. Anzion, J. Willems, Characterisation of exposure to total and hexavalent chromium of welders using biological monitoring, Toxicol. Lett., 178 (2008) 185-190. DOI: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2008.03.013

K. Salnikow, A. Zhitkovich, Genetic and epigenetic mechanisms in metal carcinogenesis and cocarcinogenesis: nickel, arsenic, and chromium, Chem. Res. Toxicol., 21 (2008) 28-44. DOI: 10.1021/tx700198a

D.G. Ellingsen, L. Dubeikovskaya, K. Dahl, M. Chashchin, V. Chashchin, E. Zibarev, Y. Thomassen, Air exposure assessment and biological monitoring of manganese and other major welding fume components in welders, J. Environ. Monit., 8 (2006) 1078-1086. DOI: 10.1039/b605549d

V. Carre, F. Aubriet, P.T. Scheepers, G. Krier, J.F. Muller, Potential of laser ablation and laser desorption mass spectrometry to characterize organic and inorganic environmental pollutants on dust particles, Rapid Commun. Mass Spectrom., 19 (2005) 871-880. DOI: 10.1002/rcm.1863

NIOSH, NIOSH Method 9102 ‘Elements on Wipes’ (2003)

OSHA, OSHA Method ID125G ‘Metal and metalloid particulates in workplace atmospheres (ICP analysis)

J. Lewalter, U. Korallus, C. Harzdorf, H. Weidemann, Chromium bond detection in isolated erythrocytes: a new principle of biological monitoring of exposure to hexavalent chromium,     Int. Arch. Occup. Environ. Health, 55 (1985) 305-318. DOI: 10.1007/BF00377689

 Related EVISA Resources

 EVISA Link Database: Toxicity of hexavalent chromium (chromate)
 EVISA Link Database: Industrial Use of chromate
 EVISA Link Database: Occupational exposure of hexavalent chromium
 EVISA Link Database: Legislation for hexavalent chromium at the workplace

Related EVISA News

June 22, 2010: Eight New Chemicals for REACH Candidate List of Substances of Very High Concern
May 25, 2010: New OSHA Hexavalent Chromium Requirement
February 17, 2010: Hexavalent Chromium: OSHA deadline for engineering controls approaching
May 28, 2009: Hexavalent chromium rule added to revised OSHA Shipyard Industry Document
September 16, 2008: New method for the determination of hexavalent chromium in anti-corrosion coating
January 15, 2008: Species-specific isotope dilution analysis has been adopted as an official method under US legislation
June 8, 2006: Scientific journal adds fuel to ongoing chromium debate
February 6, 2008: OSHA Issues Enforcement Procedures Directive for Hex Chrome Standards
April 12, 2007: OSHA Agrees to Monitor Worker Exposure to Hexavalent Chromium-Containing Cement
October 4, 2006: OSHA Issues Hexavalent Chromium Guidance for Small Businesses
February 28, 2006: OSHA Issues Final Standard on Hexavalent Chromium

last time modified: August 13, 2019


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