Agent Name
Alternative Name
Nickel and compounds
CAS Number
7440-02-0; varies
Ni, varies
Major Category
Nickel metal; Elemental nickel; Nickel catalyst; Nickel compounds; Nickel and compounds;
Nickel Compounds, Inorganic
Metal: Lustrous, silvery, odorless solid.
In the past, nickel refinery workers had an increased risk for lung cancer because of significant nickel exposure. Workers are exposed to nickel in the production of nickel carbonyl from the Mond process; [LaDou, p. 480] Skin exposure to nickel is very common from electroplated or alloyed metals including: costume jewelry, clothing zippers and snaps, coins, keys, tools, utensils, instruments, metal furniture, batteries, machinery parts, and metalworking fluids. [Marks, p. 109] Nickel is also used as a catalyst; it is released in emissions from burning fossil fuels. [ATSDR ToxProfiles]
Nickel carbonyl can cause acute pneumonitis. [Hendrick, p. 180] Asthma: metal plating; [Malo] "Most OA cases caused by nickel were single case reports." [Asthma in the Workplace, p. 297] Allergic contact dermatitis: electronics workers, hairdressers, housekeeping personnel, textile workers, and machinists; [Marks] About one half of nickel produced is used in stainless steel alloys. Sulfur-rich stainless steels are more likely to react with sweat, be absorbed in the skin, and cause sensitization. The prevalence of nickel skin allergy is higher in women (up to 17%) than in men (up to 3%) because of greater exposure to ear piercing and cheap jewelry. Allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) has been reported in electroplaters, battery workers, electronics workers, machinists, hairdressers, mechanics, and construction workers. ACD has also been reported in a bank clerk, a bartender, an engraver, a potter, and in tailors, offset printers, butchers, and musicians. The dimethylglyoxime test (Fisher's test) can detect nickel release from tools and jewelry. [Kanerva, p. 485-92] Nickel causes contact urticaria; [Kanerva, p. 219] In high-dose animal studies, nickel and nickel carbonyl cause birth defects. [Frazier] The relevance of a positive patch test to occupational contact dermatitis (OCD) is difficult to evaluate in most cases. Nickel is not considered relevant in about 64% of OCD cases. [See Reference #1] Nickel is hepatotoxic. [Nordberg, p. 1099] Elemental nickel and nickel alloys are possible human carcinogens; nickel compounds are known human carcinogens. The highest risks were found in calcining workers heavily exposed to nickel oxides and sulfides. Soluble nickel (nickel sulfate) was associated with increased risks in hydrometallurgy workers. [IARC] Nickel elemental = A5; Soluble inorganic compounds = A4; Insoluble inorganic compounds = A1; Nickel subsulfide = A1; Increased risk of lung and nasal sinus cancer in nickel refinery workers exposed to >1 mg Ni/m3 (soluble nickel) and >10 mg/m3 (insoluble nickel); [ACGIH] Metallic nickel is listed as "anticipated" and nickel compounds are listed as "known" human carcinogens. "Several cohort studies of workers exposed to various nickel compounds showed an elevated risk of death from lung cancer and nasal cancer. Although the precise nickel compound responsible for the carcinogenic effects in humans is not always clear, studies indicate that nickel sulfate and combinations of nickel sulfides and oxides encountered in nickel refining industries cause cancer in humans." [NTP] See "Nickel carbonyl."
Biomedical References

Exposure Assessment

Skin Designation (ACGIH)
Insufficient data
1.5 mg/m3, inhal. fraction (metal), 0.2 mg/m3, as Ni, inhal. fraction(insol. inorg.compds), 0.1 mg/m3, as Ni, inhal. fraction(sol. inorg. compds)
1 mg/m3, as Ni
10 mg/m3, as Ni
Excerpts from Documentation for IDLHs
Other animal data: It has been reported that pulmonary inflammation, degeneration of the bronchiolar mucosa, and atrophy of the olfactory epithelium resulted in rats and mice exposed to nickel sulfate hexahydrate at concentrations ranging from 0.7 to 13.5 mg Ni/m3 for 6 hours/day for 12 days [Benson et al. 1988].
Explanatory Notes
Melting Point = 2831 degrees F; Nickel alloys and elemental nickel are classified as 2B; [IARC]
Half Life
Whole body: 28 hours; [TDR, p. 929]
Reference Link #2

Adverse Effects

Skin Sensitizer
Toxic Pneumonitis
Hepatoxic (a) from occupational exposure (secondary effect) or (b) in animal studies or in humans after ingestion
Reproductive Toxin
IARC Carcinogen
NTP Carcinogen
Human carcinogen
ACGIH Carcinogen
Confirmed Human

Diseases, Processes, and Activities Linked to This Agent


Occupational diseases associated with exposure to this agent: