OSHA plans to propose a new rule on occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium.

"The health risks associated with occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium are serious and demand serious attention," says OSHA chief John Henshaw. "We are committed to developing a rule that ensures proper protection to safeguard workers who deal with hexavalent chromium."

Hexavalent chromium is most commonly used as a structural and anti-corrosive element in the production of stainless steel, iron and steel, and in electroplating, welding and painting. Exposures to the metal have been associated with lung cancer, other respiratory problems and dermatoses.

OSHA's current general industry standard sets a permissible exposure limit for hexavalent chromium compounds at 100 micrograms per cubic meter as a ceiling concentration; the standard for construction is 100 micrograms per cubic meter as an eight-hour time-weighted average.