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Chemical Sampling Information (CSI)
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General Description

Synonyms: CuO; Black copper oxide fume; Copper monoxide fume; Copper(II) oxide fume; Cupric oxide fume

OSHA IMIS Code Number: 0731

Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) Registry Number: 7440-50-8 (Copper); 1317-38-0 (Copper oxide)

NIOSH Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances (RTECS) Identification Number: GL7900000

NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards - Copper Fume (as Cu): Chemical description, physical properties, potentially hazardous incompatibilities, and more

Exposure Limits and Health Effects

Exposure Limit

Limit Values

HE Codes

Health Factors and Target Organs

OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) - General Industry
See 29 CFR 1910.1000 Table Z-1

0.1 mg/m3 TWA

HE4

Metal fume fever*

HE15

Upper respiratory tract irritation, discoloration of the skin and hair, metallic or sweet taste

OSHA PEL - Construction Industry
See 29 CFR 1926.55 Appendix A

0.1 mg/m3 TWA

HE4

Metal fume fever*

HE15

Upper respiratory tract irritation, discoloration of the skin and hair, metallic or sweet taste

OSHA PEL - Shipyard Employment
See 29 CFR 1915.1000 Table Z-Shipyards

0.1 mg/m3 TWA

HE4

Metal fume fever*

HE15

Upper respiratory tract irritation, discoloration of the skin and hair, metallic or sweet taste

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Recommended Exposure Limit (REL)

0.1 mg/m3 TWA

HE4

Metal fume fever *

HE15

Upper respiratory tract irritation, metallic or sweet taste, discoloration of skin and hair

American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) Threshold Limit Value (TLV) (2001)

0.2 mg/m3 TWA

HE4

Metal fume fever*, gastrointestinal distress

HE15

Ocular, dermal, mucous membrane, and respiratory tract irritation; discoloration of skin and hair; metallic or sweet taste

CAL/OSHA PEL

0.1 mg/m3 TWA

HE4

Metal fume fever*, gastrointestinal distress

HE15

Ocular, dermal, mucous membrane, and respiratory tract irritation; discoloration of skin and hair; metallic or sweet taste

* Metal fume fever is characterized by fever, muscle aches, nausea, chills, dry throat, cough, and weakness.

National Toxicology Program (NTP) carcinogenic classification: Not listed

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) carcinogenic classification: Not listed

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) carcinogenic classification: Not classifiable as to human carcinogenicity

EPA Inhalation Reference Concentration (RfC): Not established

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) Inhalation Minimal Risk Level (MRL): Not established

NIOSH Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH) concentration: 100 mg Cu/m3

Notes on Other Potential Health Effects and Hazards

  1. People with metal fume fever typically develop leukocytosis, with leukocyte counts between 12,000 and 16,000/mL. Recovery is quick and there are no sequelae (NIOSH 1978).
  2. Symptoms from metal fume fever can typically be resolved quickly if the person is removed from exposure to copper fumes (Sullivan and Krieger 1992).
  3. Automobile welders exposed to copper fumes (measured in their urine) had significantly elevated levels of glutathione, which is associated with oxidative stress (Luo et al. 2009).
  4. One case study described a worker in a brass foundry who did not wear respiratory protection while exposed to brass fumes (75% copper and 2-5% lead). The cervical margins of the worker’s teeth were stained a green color (Donoghue and Ferguson 1996).
  5. In a study that involved a systematic literature review to determine the adverse effects associated with copper fume inhalation, the researcher concluded that insufficient evidence exists to establish a link between copper fume inhalation and metal fume fever, and that if copper fumes cause this illness, the occurrence is very rare (Borak et al. 2000).
  6. Copper is the metal fume most likely to violate the PEL when sampling metal inert gas welding (MIG or wire welding.)

Date Last Revised: 11/16/2012

Literature Basis:

  • ACGIH: Documentation of the Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) and Biological Exposure Indices (BEIs) - Copper. 2001.
  • Borak J, Cohen H, Hethmon TA: Copper exposure and metal fume fever - Lack of evidence for a causal relationship. AIHAJ. 61:832-6, 2000.
  • Donoghue, A. and Ferguson, M.: Superficial copper staining of the teeth in a brass foundry worker. Occup Med (Lond). 46(3):233-234, 1996.
  • Luo, J., Hsu, K., and Shen, W.: Inflammatory responses and oxidative stress from metal fume exposure in automobile welders. J Occup Environ Med. 51(1):95-103, 2009.
  • NIOSH: Occupational Health Guideline - Copper Fume. 1978.
  • NIOSH/IPCS: International Chemical Safety Cards - Copper. September 1993.
  • Sullivan, J.B. Jr., G.R. Krieger (eds.): Hazardous Materials Toxicology - Clinical Principles of Environmental Health. Baltimore, MD: Williams and Wilkins, p. 862, 1992.

Monitoring Methods used by OSHA

Laboratory Sampling/Analytical Method:

  • sampling media: Mixed Cellulose Ester Filter (MCEF) 0.8 microns
    maximum volume: 960 Liters
    minimum volume: 480 Liters
    maximum flow rate: 2.0 L/min
    current analytical method: Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy; AAS
    method reference: OSHA Analytical Method (OSHA ID-121)
    method classification: Fully Validated
    alternate analytical method: Inductively Coupled Argon Plasma; ICP-AES/MS, AAS
    method reference: OSHA Analytical Method (OSHA ID-125G, OSHA ID-206, OSHA ID-105, OSHA 1006)
    method classification: Fully Validated
    note: If the filter is not overloaded, samples may be collected up to an 8-hour period. Analytical method does not distinguish between dust and fume.

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