OSHA will publish a proposed standard for occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium in the October 4, 2004, Federal Register.

The agency is proposing three separate standards that cover exposure to hexavalent chromium (CrVI) in general industry, construction and shipyards. OSHA is accepting public comments on the proposed standards until January 3, 2005.

OSHA is proposing to lower its permissible exposure limit (PEL) for hexavalent chromium and for all CrVI compounds in construction, shipyards and general industry from 52 to one microgram of CrVI per cubic meter of air as an 8-hour time-weighted average.

The proposed rule also includes provisions for employee protection such as preferred methods for controlling exposure, respiratory protection, protective work clothing and equipment, hygiene areas and practices, medical surveillance, hazard communication and recordkeeping.

Hexavalent chromium compounds are widely used in the chemical industry in pigments, metal plating and chemical synthesis as ingredients and catalysts. CrVI can also be produced when welding on stainless steel or CrVI-painted surfaces.

The major health effects associated with exposure to CrVI include lung cancer, asthma, nasal septum ulcerations and perforations, skin ulcerations (or chrome holes), and allergic and irritant contact dermatitis.

Comments, whether submitted by mail, fax, or electronically, must be sent by January 3, 2005. Three copies of written comments must be sent to the Docket Office, Docket H054A, Room N-2625, OSHA, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, D.C., 20210.

Comments of ten pages or fewer can be faxed to the OSHA Docket Office at (202) 693-1648.

Comments can be submitted electronically at http://ecomments.osha.gov.