Water Sanitation Health

Chemical hazards in drinking-water - chromium

Chromium is considered in the WHO Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality. You can link from here to:

The Guidelines for drinking water quality also consider for individual chemicals:

Rolling revision of the WHO Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality

Chromium is included in the plan of work of the rolling revision of the WHO Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality.


The provisional guideline value of 0.05 mg/litre for chromium was retained in the Third Edition. The chromium background document is old, and the basis for the derivation of the guideline value is unclear. The GDWQ FTF meeting (Geneva, 2003) recommended that chromium be added to the rolling revision on the basis of new National Toxicology Program (NTP) studies. A CICAD on trivalent chromium compounds is expected based on an Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) report from the USA.

Expected end-product(s)

Revised background document and summary statement, possibly for publication in the Fourth Edition

Progress to date

The GDWQ WG meeting (Geneva, 2004) agreed that the need to review chromium in the rolling revision would be considered once new data became available. The GDWQ WG meeting (Geneva, 2006) recommended that the WG await the finalization of the CICAD, and perhaps the report of the NTP studies, before revising the guideline value.

The GDWQ WG meeting (Berlin, 2007) decided on the path forward towards preparation of a background document for the Fourth Edition. The GDWQ WG meeting (Singapore, 2008) was advised that the CICADs on chromium(III) and chromium(VI) were still not finalized. Once the CICAD on chromium(III) is made available, its conclusions will be reviewed carefully and a decision made as to the path forward.

Other publications of interest

  • Chemical safety of drinking-water: Assessing priorities for risk management (in preparation)
  • Protecting groundwater for health: managing the quality of drinking-water sources (in preparation)
  • Protecting surface waters for health (in preparation)