Hexavalent Chromium compounds

What are they?

Chromium is a naturally occurring metal that is present principally in the trivalent and hexavalent forms in small amounts throughout the Canadian environment.

How are they used?

Chromium is used in a wide variety of industrial applications in Canada including metal finishing, the production of stainless and heat resistant steels, refractory products such as bricks and mortars, and in pigments, leather tanning, and wood preservatives. Both trivalent and hexavalent forms of chromium are released into the environment in Canada as a result of these industrial uses, as well as from the production and combustion of fossil fuels, and the smelting and refining of nonferrous base metals.

Why did the government of Canada assess them?

Chromium and its compounds were included in the first Priority Substances List program for assessment of potential risk to the environment and human health.

Environment Canada and Health Canada published a synopsis of the results of such assessment entitled "Canadian Environmental Protection Act, Priority Substances List Assessment Report, Chromium and its Compounds" in the Canada Gazette, Part I. Hexavalent chromium compounds (HVC) were declared toxic under paragraph 11(a) of CEPA 1988 (toxic to human health), and under paragraph 11(c) of that Act (toxic to the environment). On the basis of documented carcinogenicity in human populations, hexavalent chromium has also been included in Group I (Carcinogenic to Humans) of the classification scheme developed for the determination of "toxic" under paragraph 11(c) of CEPA 1988.

What is the government of Canada doing?

Under the federal government's Toxic Substances Management Policy, HVC require management throughout their entire life cycle to prevent or minimize releases to the environment.

The final report under the Strategic Option Process Issue Table entitled "Strategic Options for the Management of Toxic Substances from the Metal Finishing Industry" recommended that standards or guidelines be developed to reduce air emissions of hexavalent chromium compounds from the metal finishing industry. Shortly after the release of the Strategic Option Process Report, the Minister of the Environment announced that regulations would be developed under CEPA 1999 to reduce emissions of HVC from this sector.

The proposed Regulations were originally published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, for public comment, on November 6, 2004.

The objective of the Chromium Electroplating, Chromium Anodizing and Reverse Etching Regulations is to protect the environment and the health of Canadians by reducing air emissions of hexavalent chromium compounds from facilities using chromic acid in their chromium electroplating, anodizing or reverse etching operations.

Environment Canada's website provides more information on Hexavalent Chromium Compounds.

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