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Dutch Workers at Risk from Paint Toxin

Thursday, May 12, 2016

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Nearly 600 job seekers may have been exposed to a carcinogen found in old paint in one city’s back-to-work program, according to media sources in the Netherlands.

Individuals put to work removing paint from old trains were likely exposed to the toxin Chromium 6, DutchNews reported Tuesday (May 10).

Dutch train crossing bridge
© / Sjoerd van der Wal

In a seven-year period, 581 job seekers were exposed to paint toxins while sanding paint off of old trains in the Netherlands.

Chromium 6, also known as hexavalent chromium, refers to chemical compounds that contain the metallic element chromium in the +6 oxidation state, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration explains.

Used in anti-corrosion and chromate conversion coatings, hexavalent chromium compounds are also used industrially as chromate pigments in dyes, paints, inks, and plastics; chromates added as anticorrosive agents to paints, primers, and other surface coatings; and chromic acid electroplated onto metal parts to provide a decorative or protective coating.

Inhaled hexavalent chromium is recognized as a human carcinogen.

Unprotected Paint Removal

Between the years 2004 and 2011, 581 unemployed residents of the Netherlands town of Tilburg participated in paint removal work through the city council’s employment reintegration program.

The affected workers were assigned to a maintenance hangar, where they sanded paint off of old trains, NL Times reported. The trains were to be repainted for an exhibition at a railway museum.

Workers did not wear protective clothing or masks while performing their work, sources said. As a result, they likely inhaled the toxic and carcinogenic chromium 6 as they sanded off the paint. It can also be absorbed through the pores of the skin.

Dutch passenger train
© / RobertKovacs

Sources indicate that, during the period the workers were involved in the train program, it was not yet known that the toxic chromate paint had been used on trains.

The city council has since notified all affected program participants of their exposure. An additional eight people leading the train program were exposed to the paint over a period of years, DutchNews added.

A Recent Discovery

During the period the workers were involved in the train program, it reportedly was not known that the toxic paint had been used on trains.

The Federatie Nederlandse Vakbewegingen (FNV), the Netherlands’ biggest trade union federation, only called attention to the use of the toxic chromate paint on trains last year, DutchNews noted.

Hundreds of maintenance workers employed by Nedtrain who performed similar work functions were likely exposed to large quantities of chromium 6 during their careers as well, the NL times reported last fall. No cases of illness have been reported by these workers to date.

Since the FNV’s revelation, Nedtrain has taken steps to protect employees, such as stopping certain types of work and replacing employees’ gloves and masks with protective clothing.

The chromate paint was also used on the country’s military vehicles and planes. Approximately 900 former defense workers have come forward to share concerns, media sources noted, and about 25 percent of those workers report various medical problems they associate with having used the paint.

Defense officials are said to have known about the associated risks regarding the chromate paint for 13 years before taking any actions, Dutch News said.

A government inquiry is currently underway.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Health & Safety; Hexavalent chromium; Latin America; North America; Paint and coatings removal; Paint Removal; Personal protective equipment; Protective clothing; Railcars; Sanding and hand tool cleaning; Toxicity

Comment from Car F., (5/12/2016, 12:41 PM)

It is also found in the form of hexavalium chromium as a by-product in cement powder, which is created in the kiln ovens when making cement.

Comment from Car F., (5/12/2016, 12:42 PM)

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