Non-Occupational Exposures

Nickel is ubiquitous and can be found in ambient air, water, food, and soil. Some of this nickel is naturally occurring; however, some is introduced into the environment as a result of human activity. Human exposure to nickel can also occur through skin contact with nickel-containing articles, such as jewelry, through nickel-containing implants, through the leaching of nickel into dialysate fluids, and through tobacco smoke.

TABLE 3-1: ESTIMATED INHALATION AND DERMAL EXPOSURE TO NICKEL SPECIES IN
NICKEL-PRODUCING AND -USING INDUSTRIES

Industry Sector

Time scale of exposure

Estimated exposure to inhalable nickel
(mg/m3)

Dermal exposure
(mg/day)

Duration
(hr/day)

Frequency 
(day/year)

Full shift
(8 hour time weighted average)

Short-term

Typical

Worst-
case

Typical
level

Method

Worst
-case
level

Method

Level

Method

Refining, main part of the refining processes

6-8

200

0.004
0.0064
0.003
0.065

M1
SO
SU
O

Meas.3

1.1
0.33
0.55
9

M
SO
SU
O

Meas.

2.2
0.65
1.1
18

M
SO
SU
O

Exp. 4

0.43
0.63

U
SO

2.03
1.83

U
SO

Last stage Refining, handling of primary nickel

6-8

200

0.06
0.006

M
SO

Meas.

6.0

M

Meas.

12

M

Exp.

133
5.13 

U
SO

223
8.73 

U
SO

Alloy production, melting and foundry techniques

6-8

200

0.012
0.0012
~0
0.045

M
SO
SU
O

Meas.

7
0.28
~0
7

M
SO
SU
O

Meas.

14
0.6
~0
14

M
SO
SU
O

 Exp.

 1.86
0.46

U
SO

 166
1.86

U
SO

Alloy production, powder metallurgy; the powder was considered to be all metallic nickel

 6-8

200

0.5

M

Meas.

2.1

M

Meas.

 4.2

M

Exp.

137
5.17

U
SO

227
8.77

U
SO

Batteries, nickel metal as feedstock

6-8

 200

0.3

M

Meas.

2.7

M

Meas.

5.4

M

Exp.

137
5.17

U
SO

227
8.77

U
SO

Batteries, unknown type of nickel species as feedstock

6-8

200

 0.02

T

Meas.

0.3

T

Meas.

0.6

T

Exp.

137
5.17

U
SO

227
8.77

U
SO

Nickel catalysts, nickel metal as feedstock

6-8

200

0.065

M

Meas.

5.05

M

Meas.

105

M

Exp.

137
5.17 

 U
SO
227
8.77
U
SO
Nickel catalyst, unknown type of nickel species as feedstock

6-8

200

 0.095

T2

Meas.

1.25 

T2

Meas.

2.45

T2

Meas.

137
5.17

U
SO

227
8.77

U
SO

Nickel in the production of chemicals

6-8

 200

0.006-0.459 

T

Meas.

7.05

T

Meas.

145

T

 Exp.

137
5.17

U
SO

227
8.77

 U
SO
Contact with coins

6-8

200

0.001

M

Meas.

0.018

M

Meas.

0.036

M

Exp.

 0.048

M

0.128

M

Contact with tools and other nickel releasing surfaces

6-8

200

~0

M

Exp.

~0

M

Exp.

~0

M

Exp.

0.048

M

0.128

M

Use of batteries

6-8

200

~0

M

Exp.

~0

M

Exp.

~0

M

Exp.

 ~0

M

~0

M

Use of catalysts

6-8

200

~0

M

Exp.

~0

M

Exp.

~0

M

Exp.

~0

M

~0

M


1: M = Metallic nickel; O = Oxidic nickel; SO = Soluble nickel; SU = Sulphidic nickel; T = The predominant nickel species include metallic nickel, oxidic nickel, and soluble nickel salts; U = Other nickel species than soluble nickel. 2: Exposure to sulphidic nickel cannot be excluded. 3: The estimate was derived from measured data. 4: 'Expert judgement'. 5: The values may be overestimates. 6: The mass of material deposited on the skin was estimated by analogy to dermal exposure measured for cathode cutting and briquette packing operators 7: Estimated by analogy to measured data for nickel powder packing operators. 8: The estimate is for both hands (surface area 840 cm2). 9: Range of estimated typical exposure levels.