According to Concord monitor online a fire at the former Penacook mill and tannery in New England, USA, on Monday November 15, 2004, a suspicious plume of smoke rising from a demolition site prompted emergency officials to evacuate part of Penacook and close the village to traffic for several hours.

In a follow-up article on November 19 it was stated that ‘In Penacook, elevated levels of trivalent chromium were found in ash and dust samples, meaning the chemical was burned during the fire that broke out at the tannery on Monday. City officials couldn’t say how much of it was released in the air because they did not capture air samples from the plume of smoke. Nor could they say what the health risks might be for those exposed to it.

‘The chemical is known to cause cancer in animals, although experts say there isn’t enough evidence to conclude it’s a human carcinogen. ‘According to Lenntech, a company in the Netherlands, the list of health hazards from exposure to trivalent chromium includes nose irritation and nosebleeds, a skin rash, upset stomach, kidney or liver damage, respiratory problems, weakened immune systems and, in extreme cases, death.’

Despite apparently writing about trivalent chrome, the Monitor appears to be describing hexavalent chrome but a true reference to chrome six is yet to come: ‘Kevin Gardner, director of the Center for Contaminated Sediments Research at the University of New Hampshire, said a one-time exposure, like what may have been experienced by residents on Monday, might not result in those health effects. But Gardner also wondered if the ash from the plume was dispersed in the village. He was also uncertain whether trivalent chromium would chemically react and become the much more toxic hexavalent chromium once burned.

‘Matt Walsh, the city’s project manager for the tannery redevelopment, said the city hasn’t looked at whether the ash had dispersed; he declined to elaborate. But he did say the state Department of Environmental Services was investigating whether the chromium could chemically change.’