Zinc chromate primarily is used as a corrosive-resistant coating for metals with zinc plating or alloys containing zinc. Zinc chromate is also used in spray paint and linoleum production. Although it is a known toxin and carcinogen in humans, zinc chromate primers are used in the automobile, aviation and aerospace industries to prevent corrosion and organic growth on metal components.
Zinc chromate first came into use during the late 1920s when it was developed by the Ford Motor Company. As of 2015, zinc chromate is typically used as primer on metals before they are painted. The primer works when moisture causes the zinc chromate to dissolve. The dissolved layer forms a protective shield between the outside moisture and the undissolved primer. The process continues until the primer fully dissolves away from the metal, leaving it vulnerable to corrosion.
Zinc chromate is highly toxic, and exposure to the compound can cause skin irritation and ulcers, internal organ damage, infertility, and cancer. Due to the dangers of zinc chromate, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has strict safety guidelines for the compound. The permissible exposure limit for zinc chromate is 0.1 milligram per cubic meter of air. Individuals working with or around zinc chromate must also wear protective equipment at all times and be monitored by medical professionals.