Fact Sheet V: The chromium threat

In India, there are no set limits for chromium in colourants and finished products

Use of chromium is prohibited in India, but it is still found in lipsticks  

Chromium is found naturally in rocks, plants, soil and volcanic dust, and animals. The most common forms of chromium that occur in natural water in the environment are trivalent chromium (chromium III) and hexavalent chromium (chromium VI). Chromium III is far less toxic than chromium VI.

Chromium VI occurs naturally and can be produced by industrial processes. Dermal exposure to it may occur during the use of consumer products that contain chromium. It is a known human carcinogen. When inhaled, it can cause lung cancer. Oral exposure has been linked with ulcers and cancers of stomach and intestine in animal studies. Skin contact can cause ulcers.

Sometimes benign, mostly malignant  
Chromium III is an essential nutrient for humans and shortages may cause heart conditions, disruptions of metabolisms and diabetes. But the intake of too much chromium III can cause skin rashes. Chromium III and Chromium VI get converted into each other back and forth in water. Recognising the need for extra precaution, the United States Environment Agency while setting standards in water assumes all chromium as chromium VI.   

• In cosmetics, chromium and its compounds are not allowed to be used as an ingredient in several countries such as the US, the EU and India

• Only two of its compounds—chromium oxide and chromium hydroxide—are permitted as cosmetic colourants

• In the US, these two are further banned from use in lipsticks while it is not the case in India.

• The US recognises chromium as an impurity in few organic and inorganic colourants.

• In India, there are no set limits for chromium in colourants and finished products