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."

Reference Link

Occupational contact dermatitis to nickel: experience of the British dermatologists (EPIDERM) and occupational physicians (OPRA) surveillance schemes.

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;

Half Life

Whole body: 28 hours; [TDR, p. 929]

Reference Link

ATSDR - ToxFAQs - Nickel

Adverse Effects
Skin Sensitizer




Toxic Pneumonitis



Hepatotoxin, Secondary

Reproductive Toxin


IARC Carcinogen

Known Carcinogen

NTP Carcinogen

Human Carcinogen

ACGIH Carcinogen

Confirmed Human

Links to Other NLM Databases
Health Studies

Human Health Effects from Hazardous Substances Data Bank:

Toxicity Information


Chemical Information

Search ChemIDplus

Biomedical References

Search PubMed

Related Information in HazMap

Occupational diseases associated with exposure to this agent:


Industrial Processes with risk of exposure:


Activities with risk of exposure: