Identifying Occupational Exposure Risks to Cobalt and Cobalt Compounds in New York


Source: VOETS, LLC

VOETS, LLC provides testing and consulting services to detect and mitigate occupational and environmental exposure risks to harmful substances.

New York, NY -- In late 2016, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released the 14th Report on Carcinogens (RoC). It contained newly reviewed substances that are known or reasonably anticipated to cause cancer in humans. Included in this list were the metallic element cobalt and cobalt compounds that release cobalt ions in vivo. 

The National Toxicology Program (NTP), an interagency program whose mission is to evaluate agents of public health concern by developing and applying tools of modern toxicology and molecular biology, prepared the document. The NTP reports that cobalt and some cobalt compounds are being listed as reasonably anticipated to be carcinogens.

Cobalt-containing products include corrosion and heat-resistant alloys, hard metal (cobalt-tungsten-carbide alloy), magnets, grinding and cutting tools, pigments, paints, colored glass, surgical implants, catalysts, batteries, and cobalt-coated metal. Industrial plants and metal workshops that utilize cobalt or cobalt compounds can release it into the air and soil. Welders can also be exposed to cobalt from welding fumes. Workers in these industries and occupations, and people who live or work near areas where these substances are found could be at risk of increased exposure.

“Many industrial applications utilize cobalt or cobalt compounds,” said Michael Berrevoets, President, VOETS, LLC. “In fact, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that more than a million workers in the United States are potentially exposed to these substances. Chronic exposure to cobalt-containing hard metal in dusts or fumes can result in a serious lung disease known as hard metal lung disease, which is a type of pneumoconiosis. Inhalation of cobalt particles can also cause respiratory sensitization, asthma, shortness of breath, and decreased pulmonary function according to NIOSH. In addition to respiratory hazards, dermal contact is also a significant concern.”

There are a number of workers that could potentially be exposed to cobalt and cobalt compounds that can be found in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Helping to protect these workers and keep companies in regulatory compliance with health and safety standards are the industrial hygiene professionals at VOETS, LLC. They offer air testing services, ventilation audits, respiratory plans, and employee fit testing among other services. They also recently sponsored an educational video about exposure concerns to cobalt and cobalt compounds that can be seen at: https://youtu.be/ZOWNiwNPAWE

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