Nickel Alloys

Often there is a misconception that exposure to nickel-containing alloys is synonymous with exposure to metallic nickel. This is not true. Each type of nickel-containing alloy is a unique substance with its own special physico-chemical and biological properties that differ from those of its individual metal constituents. The potential toxicity of a nickel alloy (including carcinogenic effects) must, therefore, be evaluated separately from the potential toxicity of nickel metal itself and other nickel-containing alloys. While there are hundreds of different nickel-contain-ing alloys in different product categories, the major product categories are stainless steel (containing Fe, Cr and up to 34% Ni) and high nickel content alloys. Occupational exposures to these and other forms of nickel alloys (e.g., superalloys, cast-irons) can occur wherever alloys are produced (metallurgical operations) or in the processing of alloys (such as welding, grinding, cutting, polishing, and forming). As in the case of metallic nickel, occupational exposures to nickel-containing alloys will mainly be via the skin or through inhalation. However, in the case of certain nickel alloys that are used in prosthetic devices, localized exposures can occur. Because such exposures are not of specific concern to occupational settings, they are not discussed in this Guide. However, a comprehensive review of information pertaining to prosthetic devises can be found in McGregor et al. (2000).

  1. Inhalation Exposure: Nickel Alloys
  2. Dermal Exposure: Nickel Alloys