Chromium bond detection in isolated erythrocytes: a new principle of biological monitoring of exposure to hexavalent chromium

Research paper by J. Lewalter, U. Korallus, C. Harzdorf, H. Weidemann

Indexed on: 01 May '85Published on: 01 May '85Published in: International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health


Internal stress to chromium is only relevant in occupational medicine if it is due to the handling of hexavalent chromium. Cr(VI) ions, after uptake by inhalation or percutaneously are carried in the blood plasma and penetrate—depending on the concentration—into the erythrocytes. Due to the intracellular reduction to Cr(III) and the concurrent intracellular protein binding, the erythrocytes represent an easily accessible target organ for quantitative chromium determination after occupational exposure to Cr(VI) compounds. The results of an earlier experimental study indicate that human plasma too is capable of spontaneous reduction of Cr(VI) ions of up to 2 ppm to Cr(III). This plasma reduction capacity (PRC) can be increased and accelerated considerably by adding ascorbic acid (AA). These findings were supported in this investigation by proving a decreased binding of Cr(VI) inside the erythrocytes under the effect of AA. This leads to the assumption that only those Cr(VI) concentrations can penetrate the membrane of the erythrocytes and enter the cell which either come into contact with the membrane during the reduction process or exceed this limit concentration of 2 ppm. Only in these two instances can corresponding chromium findings be analyzed in isolated and washed erythrocytes. These results are compared with those obtained by conventional methods, such as Cr determination in the blood and/or urine. Our findings indicate that a single determination of chromium concentration in the erythrocytes will permit the monitoring of critical cases of Cr(VI) exposure. This is a new type of biological monitoring in the sense of a condensed longitudinal study, in order to find out whether threshold concentrations have been respected over a given period.