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What Is Potassium Dichromate?

By Janet Renee, MS, RD

Potassium is an important mineral needed for proper function of all cells, tissues and organs in your body; however, potassium dichromate is not a nutrient at all. Potassium dichromate is an industrial chemical found in leather, dyes, paints, glues, shoe polishes, floor waxes, detergents and wood preservatives.

Hazardous Identification

According to the Material Safety Data Sheet, or MSDS, potassium dichromate is hazardous. It is corrosive and irritating to skin. Prolonged exposure may result in skin burns and inflammation, blistering, itching, redness and scaling. Inhaling potassium dichromate can cause lung irritation. Severe over-exposure by inhaling can result in death.

Classified Carcinogen

According to the MSDS, potassium dichromate is a confirmed carcinogen, a substance involved in causing cancer. Repeated, prolonged exposure can produce damage to your blood, lungs, kidneys, liver, skin, eyes and upper respiratory tract. Exposure to potassium dichromate has a cumulative effect, so any repeated exposure poses adverse health effects.

Allergy

Some individuals are allergic to potassium dichromate and must vigilantly avoid exposure. It is important to read product labels if you are allergic to this chemical. It may be listed under other names, including bichromate of potash, lopezite, dipotassium dichromate, or chromium metal. It is commonly used as a treatment for woods such as mahogany because it brings out the color and presents a deep, rich appearance. Because of its wide variety of uses, it is important to advise people that you obtain services from, such as your hairdresser and florist, of your allergy.

First Aid Measures and Precautions

When handling potassium dichromate, keep the container locked, dry and away from heat. If potassium dichromate comes in contact with your eyes, flush immediately with running water, keeping eyelids open. For skin contact, wash gently and thoroughly with water and non-invasive soap. If irritation continues, seek medical attention. Inhalation and ingestion poses very serious risks and need immediate medical attention.

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