F.Y.I. – Cobalt

To revert back to our theme of getting the information you need so you “Don’t put your health in other people’s hands”, I did some research on cobalt, a toxic heavy metal that is # 49 on the government’s list of Hazardous Substances.

Not to be confused however, with Cobalt, the discontinued compact car, cobalt is a natural element and heavy metal that plays a small but beneficial role in human health as a component of Vitamin B12, essential for good health.  It has also been used as a treatment of anemia because it causes red blood cells to be produced.  But like other heavy metals, such as lead, mercury and cadmium, too much exposure can cause health problems.  So it’s important to understand how and where exposure can occur.

Cobalt occurs in many different chemical forms, and can be found in numerous industries:

Alloys (mixtures of metals)

Dyes and pigments

Paint Industry

Scrap Metals

Batteries

Magnets

Tires

Chemistry/Crystal Sets

Drill bits and machine tools

Diamond tooling

Porcelain enamels

The list is not all inclusive, but certainly can help you identify the possibility of cobalt poisoning, which can occur by breathing in dust containing cobalt, by skin contact with dust or solutions containing cobalt or by eating, drinking or smoking in cobalt work areas.

Everyone is naturally exposed to low levels of cobalt in the air, water and in food.  However, if you live near hazardous wastes sites or industrial areas that process or make products containing cobalt, exposure to higher levels of cobalt can occur.

Health symptoms can include chronic lung problems, such as asthma, pneumonia, or even pulmonary fibrosis.  Lesser problems would include dermatitis and rashes.  Swallowing large amounts of cobalt is rare, but if done over long periods of time, will cause serious health issues, such as cardiomyopathy, nerve and thyroid problems.

Here are some helpful links:

http://www.cobalt-poisoning.com/  – Hip Implants

http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/healthguidelines/cobaltmetaldustandfume/recognition.html

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