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Nickel, Metal and Insoluble Compounds (as Ni)

General Description

  • Synonyms: Nickel metal; Elemental nickel, Nickel catalyst; Nickel subsulfide; Raney nickel; Other synonyms vary depending upon the specific nickel compound
  • OSHA IMIS Code Number: 1840
  • Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) Registry Number: 7440-02-0 (Nickel); 12035-72-2 (Nickel subsulfide)
  • NIOSH Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances (RTECS) Identification Number: QR5950000
  • NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards, Nickel Metal and Other Compounds (as Ni): Physical description, chemical properties, potentially hazardous incompatibilities, and more
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Hazard Summary, Nickel Compounds: Uses, sources and potential exposure, acute and chronic health hazard information, and more

Exposure Limits and Health Effects

Exposure Limit Limit Values* HE Codes Health factors and Target Organs
* These values do not apply to nickel carbonyl.

OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) - General Industry

See 29 CFR 1910.1000 Table Z-1

1 mg/m3


HE2 Nasal, sinus, and lung cancers
HE15 Dermatitis

OSHA PEL - Construction Industry

See 29 CFR 1926.55 Appendix A

1 mg/m3


HE2 Nasal, sinus, and lung cancers
HE15 Dermatitis

OSHA PEL - Shipyard Employment

See 29 CFR 1915.1000 Table Z-Shipyards

1 mg/m3


HE2 Nasal, sinus, and lung cancers
HE15 Dermatitis

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

0.015 mg/m3 TWA


HE2 Lung and sinus cancers
HE15 Sensitization dermatitis, allergic skin rash

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

Elemental: 1.5 mg/m3 TWA


HE10 Pneumoconiosis
HE15 Dermatitis

Insoluble compounds: 0.2 mg/m3


HE2 Nasal and lung cancers

Nickel subsulfide: 0.1 mg/m3 TWA


HE2 Nasal and lung cancers


Metal: 0.5 mg/m3 TWA

Insoluble compounds: 0.1 mg/m3 TWA

HE2 Nasal, sinus, and lung cancers
  • National Toxicology Program (NTP) carcinogenic classification: Reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen (metallic nickel); Known to be a human carcinogen (nickel compounds)
  • International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) carcinogenic classification: Group 2B (possibly carcinogenic to humans [metallic nickel]); Group 1 (carcinogenic to humans [nickel compounds])
  • EPA carcinogenic classification: Not listed
  • EPA Inhalation Reference Concentration (RfC): Not established
  • Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) Inhalation Minimal Risk Level (MRL): 0.0002 mg/m3 (intermediate); 0.00009 mg/m3 (chronic)
  • Notes on Other Potential Health Effects and Hazards:
    1. EPA's reference dose (RfD) for nickel (soluble salts) is 0.02 mg/kg/day (EPA 2000).
    2. Nickel has also been shown to be toxic to the liver and kidneys (Rom 1992).
    3. Nickel is the most frequent metal that induces allergic contact sensitization (Zenz et al. 1994). Approximately 10 to 20 percent of people are sensitive to nickel (ATSDR 2005).
    4. Most cases of sinonasal cancer associated with nickel exposure have occurred in nickel refinery workers, although a few have been reported in alkaline battery and cutlery workers (Sunderman 2001).
    5. Nickel exposure has been associated with work-related respiratory symptoms, including decreases in lung function in welders (Fishwick et al. 2004).
  • Literature Basis:
    • ACGIH: Documentation of the Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) and Biological Exposure Indices (BEIs) - Nickel and Inorganic Compounds, including Nickel Subsulfide. 2001.
    • ATSDR: Toxicological Profile for Nickel. August 2005.
    • California Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board: Initial and Final Statement of Reasons. August 3, 2010.
    • Fishwick, D., Bradshaw, L., Slater, T., Curran, A. and Pearce, N.: Respiratory symptoms and lung function change in welders: are they associated with workplace exposures? N. Z. Med. J. 117(1193): U872, 2004.
    • NIOSH: Occupational Health Guideline for Nickel Metal and Soluble Nickel Compounds. September 1978.
    • NIOSH: Criteria for a Recommended Standard - Occupational Exposure to Inorganic Nickel. May 1977.
    • NIOSH/IPCS: International Chemical Safety Cards - Nickel. October 17, 2001.
    • Rom, W.N. (ed.): Environmental and Occupational Medicine. 2nd ed. Boston, MA, Little, Brown and Company, p. 809. 1992.
    • Sunderman, F.W., Jr.: Nasal toxicity, carcinogenicity, and olfactory uptake of metals. Ann. Clin. Lab. Sci. 31(1): 3-24, 2001.
    • Zenz, C., O.B. Dickerson, E.P. Horvath. Occupational Medicine. 3rd ed. St. Louis, MO., p. 106, 1994.
  • Date Last Revised: 09/06/2012

Monitoring Methods used by OSHA

Primary Laboratory Sampling/Analytical Method (SLC1):
  • 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
  • method reference: OSHA Analytical Method (OSHA ID-125G, OSHA 1006)
  • note: If the filter is not overloaded, samples may be collected up to an 8-hour period.

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