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OSHA Agrees to Monitor Worker Exposure to Hexavalent Chromium-Containing Cement



A common building material found at construction sites is portland cement, which contains varying amounts of hexavalent chromium, or “hex chrome,” a known carcinogen and toxin hazardous to skin, eyes and lungs. But in 2006, when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued exposure standards for hex chrome—which also is found in many other compounds, especially in the chemical industry—the agency did not include exposure to portland cement in the standard.

Thuesday, April 10, 2007, BCTD announced that OSHA had reached a settlement with the BCTD, Laborers (LIUNA) and Teamsters (IBT) to inspect U.S. construction sites for safety procedures to reduce worker exposure to portland cement.

The three groups sued OSHA in April 2006 when it did not include exposure to portland cement in its hex chrome standard, even though the unions and BCTD submitted evidence and testified during the rule-making process about the dangerous health effects of hex chrome exposure when working with portland cement.

The New Agreement:
The agreement requires OSHA compliance officers to ensure workers using portland cement follow regulations for safe working procedures. Compliance officers will evaluate whether proper washing facilities and supplies, personal protective equipment, access to material safety data sheets, adequate worker training and accurate injury and illness record keeping are in place.

Rather than requiring OSHA to amend the hex chrome standard, the settlement commits OSHA to enforce existing regulations that provide construction workers with the same sorts of protections they would have gained under the new standard. Says BCTD President Edward C. Sullivan:

Ultimately, the real winners are the workers because they will have the level of protection on the job that the regulations were meant to secure almost 40 years ago. All the standards in our settlement agreement that employers must meet have been on the books, so it’s nothing new for contractors. But OSHA now must see that employers comply with the regulations.
The European Way:
Europe is going a different way. Insteed of inspecting the workers for proper handling of the dangerous material, legislation limits the tolerable amount of "hex chrome" in cement products. To comply with the rule, manufacturers often have to add reducing additives (e.g. ferrous sulfate)converting hex chrome to the save trivalent chromium species. However, such additives add to costs and limit the shelf-life of cement, since moisture and heat lead to degradtion of the additives.

Related information

 OSHA: Safety and Health Topics: Hexavalent Chromium
OSHA: Standards related to Hexavalent Chromium
David Michaels, Celeste Monforton, Peter Lurie, Selected science: an industry campaign to undermine an OSHA hexavalent chromium standard, Environ. Health, 5/5 (2006) doi: 10.1186/1476-069X-5-5

EVISA: EU directive 2003/53/EC on chromium in cement
MPA Cement: Chromium (VI) and cement
eLCOSH, Cement Hazards and Controls: Health Risks and Precautions in Using Portland Cement 

Related Studies

Siegfried Fregert, Chromium valencies and cement dermatitis, Br. J. Dermatol., 105/S21 (1981) 7. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.1981.tb01301.x

V.G. Solonetskii, V.N. Kravchenko, A.S. Vavilova, A.Kh. Evangelidi, Influence of various forms of refractories and firing conditions on the water-soluble chromium content in cement clinker, Refractories and Industrial Ceramics, 23/9-10 (1982) 486-488. DOI: 10.1007/BF01402834

K. Turk, R.L. Rietschel, Effect of processing cement to concrete on hexavalent chromium levels, Contact Dermatitis, 28/4 (1993) 209-211. DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0536.1993.tb03403.x

W.A. Klemm, Hexavalent Chromium in Portland Cement, Cem., Concr. Aggregates, 16/1 (1994) 43-47. DOI: 10.1520/CCA10560J

M. Frías, M. I. Sánchez de Rojas, N. García, M.P. Luxán, Contribution of toxic elements: Hexavalent chromium in materials used in the manufacture of cement, Cem. Concr. Res., 24/3 (1994) 533-541. DOI: 10.1016/0008-8846(94)90142-2

M. Frías, M.I. Sánchez Rojas, Determination and quantification of total chromium and water soluble contents in commercial cements, Cem. Concr. Res., 25/2 (1995) 433-439.
DOI: 10.1016/0008-8846(95)00029-1

P. Roto, H. Sainio, T. Reunala, P. Laippala, Addition of ferrous sulfate to cement and risk of chromium dermatitis among construction workers, Contact Dermatitis, 34/1 (1996) 43-50. DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0536.1996.tb02111.x

C.L. Goh, S.L. Gan, Change in cement manufacturing process, a cause for decline in chromate allergy ?, Contact Dermatitis, 34/1 (1996) 51-54. DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0536.1996.tb02112.x

Moisés Frías, M. Isabel Sánchez de Rojas, Total and soluble chromium, nickel and cobalt content in the main materials used in the manufacturing of Spanish commercial cements, Cem. Concr. Res., 32/3  (2002) 435-440. DOI: 10.1016/S0008-8846(01)00701-3

C. Winder, M. Carmody, The dermal toxicity of cement, Toxicol. Ind. Health, 18/7 (2002) 321-331. DOI: 10.1191/0748233702th159oa

Jérôme Rose, Anne Bénard, Jean Susini, Daniel Borschneck, Jean-Louis Hazemann, Pascal Cheylan, Angélique Vichot,and, Jean-Yves Bottero, First Insights of Cr Speciation in Leached Portland Cement Using X-ray Spectroscopy, Environ. Sci. Technol., 37/20 (2003) 4864-4870. DOI: 10.1021/es0300113

S.S. Potgieter, N. Panichev, J.H. Potgieter, S. Panicheva, Determination of hexavalent chromium in South African cements and cement-related materials with electrothermal atomic absorption spectrometry, Cem. Concr. Res., 33/10 (2003) 1589-1593. DOI: 10.1016/S0008-8846(03)00132-7

Sanja S. Potgieter, Herman Potgieter, Hexavalent chromium speciation in a cement matrix, Am. Lab. News, Febr. (2003) 26. available from ResearchGate

Janez Ščančar, Radmila Milačič, Fabienne Séby, Olivier F. X. Donard, Determination of hexavalent chromium in cement by the use of HPLC-ICP-MS, FPLC-ETAAS, spectrophotometry and selective extraction techniques, J. Anal. At. Spectrom., 20/9 (2005) 871-875. DOI: 10.1039/b504514b

A. Bravo, T. Cerulli, M. Dragoni, M. Magistri, D. Padovani, Determination of soluble chromates in cement based materials by means of the ion chromatography, ZKG Int., 58/7 (2005)

Osamu Yamaguchi, Masaya Ida, Yasuhiro Uchiyama, Shunsuke Hanehara, A method for the determination of total Cr(VI) in cement, J. Eur. Ceramic Soc., 26/4-5 (2006) 785-790. DOI: 10.1016/j.jeurceramsoc.2005.07.046

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last time modified: March 9, 2024


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