RIVM concludes exploratory analysis of hexavalent chromium in prisons

There is no evidence to suggest that additional health risks were present in Custodial Institutions Agency (DJI) facilities as a result of working with preserved wood. This was the conclusion of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) following an exploratory analysis at the behest of Sander Dekker, the Minister for Legal Protection. In the past, employees and detainees in a number of prisons have worked with wood that was impregnated with the substance hexavalent chromium. The RIVM analysed measurements of hexavalent chromium present in the air, which were ordered by the DJI. These measurements gave no indication that the legal limits have been exceeded. The RIVM additionally concluded that the documents reviewed provide no substantive justification for further investigation.

In August of last year, Minister Dekker tasked the RIVM with conducting an exploratory analysis aimed at answering the question of whether, and to which degree, staff and detainees may have been exposed to excessively high doses of hexavalent chromium in the past. 


Individuals have previously worked with impregnated (preserved) wood in the workshops at a number of Custodial Institutions Agency prisons. This work involved the assembly of garden fencing and garden gates. A portion of the wood was impregnated with hexavalent chromium. It is believed that when power tools were used in working with the wood, sawdust containing hexavalent chromium may have been released into the air. Between 2014 and 2017, the health & safety unit of the DJI arranged for measurements to be taken and gained the impression that the amount of hexavalent chromium in the air was in excess of the applicable legal limit. The RIVM has concluded that there is no evidence that the legal limit applicable at that time was exceeded. Neither the documentation provided by the DJI, nor the number of health complaints or nature of these complaints provide substantive justification for further investigation. 

Chromium-free wood

According to the RIVM, the DJI responded in an alert and proactive manner when it was revealed that, despite the agreements in place, certain lots of wood contained hexavalent chromium. The DJI took immediate action at that time to ensure that, going forward, chromium-free wood can be used. Furthermore, the DJI will arrange for periodic measurement of the chromium levels in the wood itself.