Hexavalent Chromium Linked to Asthma

Hexavalent chromium

Asthma appears to be associated with hexavalent chromium exposure.

Researchers have linked allergic asthma to hexavalent chromium exposure, especially during occupational exposures.

Toxic exposure to hexavalent chromium was popularized by the movie based on the protests of Erin Brockovich, who helped make public the fact that groundwater in Hinkley, CA had been contaminated with hexavalent chromium. The Hinkley contamination was said to double the levels of cancer among that population, according to one study.

Inflammatory response from hexavalent chromium

A study from George Washington University found that inhaled particulates of the chemical – derived from manufacturing – can cause an inflammatory response that exacerbates allergic asthma.

This study comes in the wake of other studies that have linked hexavalent chromium to bladder cancer, cell damage and mutation among exposed workers.

Recent research from China found that workers who inhaled hexavalent chromium had significantly increased cancer risk. This study analyzed 157 electroplate factory workers along with 93 control subjects. They found that exposure to hexavalent chromium produced DNA damage among the exposed workers.

Other 2011 research from Germany found that hexavalent chromium damages the cell’s phospholipid membrane, produces oxidative stress, inflammation, mitochondria damage – all contributing to genetic mutation.

How we can be exposed to hexavalent chromium

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Toxic exposure to hexavalent chromium through municipal water supplies is very real. In late 2010, a study by the Environmental Working Group found that 31 of 35 city water supplies tested had significant levels of hexavalent chromium, and 25 cities had levels of hexavalent chromium that were above “safe levels” of .06 part per billion – a standard being proposed in California. Federal standards are complicated by the combination of hexavalent chromium and trivalent chromium, or “total chromium.” Trivalent chromium is a mineral found in nature, necessary for glucose metabolism.

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“This chemical [hexavalent chromium] has been so widely used by so many industries across the U.S. that this doesn’t surprise me,” Erin Brockovich said in response to the EWG report.

Hexavalent chromium is a byproduct of a number of manufacturing industries, including some dye-making, plastics production, tanneries and electroplating operations. These have been known to dump their hexavalent chromium into soils and streams, eventually reaching groundwater and municipal water supplies. The polluter in the Hinkley, CA case was Pacific Gas & Electric. Pesticides also pollute many drinking water supplies.

Learn more about water pollutants and water filtration strategies.



Schneider BC, Constant SL, Patierno SR, Jurjus RA, Ceryak SM. Exposure to particulate hexavalent chromium exacerbates allergic asthma pathology. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2011 Dec 9.

Lupescu A, Jilani K, Zelenak C, Zbidah M, Qadri SM, Lang F. Hexavalent chromium-induced erythrocyte membrane phospholipid asymmetry. Biometals. 2011 Nov 13.

Halasova E, Matakova T, Musak L, Polakova V, Letkova L, Dobrota D, Vodicka P. Evaluating chromosomal damage in workers exposed to hexavalent chromium and the modulating role of polymorphisms of DNA repair genes. Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2011 Aug 20.

Stamatiou K. Hexavalent chromium and bladder cancer risk. Actas Urol Esp. 2011
Aug 5.

Zhang XH, Zhang X, Wang XC, Jin LF, Yang ZP, Jiang CX, Chen Q, Ren XB, Cao JZ, Wang Q, Zhu YM. Chronic occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium causes DNA damage in electroplating workers. BMC Public Health. 2011 Apr 12;11:224.

Case Adams, PhD

Case Adams has a Ph.D. in Natural Health Sciences, is a California Naturopath and is Board Certified as an Alternative Medicine Practitioner, with clinical experience and diplomas in Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling, Homeopathy and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 27 books and numerous articles on print and online magazines. Contact: [email protected]

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