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Chrome plating has been used for many years to increase the aesthetics of an object as well as protect it from corrosion. The process of chrome plating can be hazardous as different chemicals are used that are highly toxic for humans. Hydrochloric, hydrofluoric and sulfuric acids and ferric chloride are just some of the chemicals used in the pre-treatment process of chrome plating. When working in the chrome plating industry, it is important to remember specific safety precautions to ensure a safe work environment.
Skin and Organ Damage
There are many chemical hazards when chrome plating because the procedure uses a process called acid baths. An acid bath occurs when the object is placed in chemicals that include hydrochloric, nitric-hydrofluoric and sulfuric acids that clean surfaces. Because these chemicals contain an extremely high acid base, corrosion of the skin and damage to the eyes can occur. Remember that these chemicals can also release vapors that can cause severe burns and damage to the throat, lungs and other internal organs.
Carcinogenic Health Hazards
The National Institute of Health reports that in May 2007 the chemical hexivalent chromium caused cancer in laboratory animals. Hexivalent chromium is used in chrome plating and contains a variety of carcinogenic compounds. The NIH further reports that this chemical causes lung cancer in occupational settings that do not have adequate ventilation systems. Hexavalent chromium and cancer correlations were also discussed on the real-life movie, “Erin Brockovich,” that starred Julia Roberts.
Many chemicals used in chrome plating are extremely flammable and therefore can pose a fire risk for individuals working within this industry. Chemicals such as sulfuric and hydrochloride acids are flammable when mixed with other chemicals because of their oxidizing effects. Companies that work within the chrome plating industry should educate their employees on the importance of following specific rules within the area where electroplating is being completed.
Companies that partake in the chrome plating industry must follow strict guidelines set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency. The guidelines discuss specific emergency procedures, disposal of chemicals and the usage of proper air filtering systems that need to be followed. By not following these guidelines, companies can damage the environment by allowing the toxic and lethal chemicals to enter water wells and other natural areas.
- Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers, Inc.: Electroplating-A Focus on Chrome Plating
- National Insitute of Health: Hexavalent Chromium
- The State of New Jersey: Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet-Sulfuric Acid
- Environmental Protection Agency: Rule and Implementation Information for Chronium Electroplating
Quentin Shires has been writing since 2003, covering topics such as safety issues, travel and counseling. Shires holds a Master of Science in mental health counseling from Nova Southeastern University and is working toward his Ph.D. in human behavior from Capella University.