One hundred chromate production workers chronically exposed to low-level of hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)] and eighty healthy individuals free from Cr exposure were recruited to the study. Personal sampling of airborne Cr was conducted and Cr content was quantified by Flame Atomic Absorption Spectrometry (FAAS). At the end of the sampling shift, blood samples were collected and element concentrations were measured by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) for Cr, Cd, Cu, Mo and Se and inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometry (ICP-AES) for Ca, Fe, Mg and Zn. According to our results, 90% of the chromate production workers were exposed to airborne Cr in a concentration lower than 50 μg m−3, which is the threshold limit value recommended by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists and Chinese Ministry of Health. After Cr(VI) exposure, a significant increase in blood Cr, Cd, Fe, Mg, Mo, Se and Zn concentrations was observed, as well as a significant decrease in Ca concentration. A decrease in blood Cu was only observed among female workers. Blood Cr concentrations of the exposed workers (median = 15.68 ng mL−1) was four times higher than that of the controls (median = 3.03 ng mL−1), and significantly correlated with airborne Cr (r = 0.568, P<0.001). In addition, the inter-element correlations exhibited significant differences between the two groups. Our findings of the related health effects suggested that the underlying mechanisms of chronic Cr(VI) exposure on blood element homeostasis might be partly explained by oxidative stress in the body, dysfunction of Fe metabolism and renal injury.