The multiple threats of cobalt dust

It may not be acutely poisonous or carcinogenic, but there are several ways in which cobalt dust can hurt you. Like any dust, it can cause significant health problems if inhaled over an extended period. But it’s harmful in other ways too, which makes it an especially hazardous material to work with.

Exposure to cobalt dust happens most often in industries that process cobalt alloys or cemented carbides. Cobalt alloys have a range of useful properties – strength, corrosion resistance, heat resistance – so they’re used in countless applications, from firearms and aircraft, to electronics and nuclear reactors. Cobalt is also used as an additive in cemented carbides. These are the extremely hard materials used in cutting and drilling tools. Overall, if your work involves producing, processing or finishing hard metals, then it’s likely that you’ll encounter cobalt dust.

Prolonged contact can cause dermatitis

And these encounters can be hazardous if not managed properly. Cobalt dust irritates skin and eyes, and prolonged contact can cause dermatitis. It’s dangerous when swallowed, too: it can easily transfer from hands to food and drink, and ingestion over a long period can cause cobalt poisoning. Its most common symptoms are nausea and vomiting, but heart defects and cognitive impairment have also been attributed to this form of intoxication.

Unsurprisingly, though, cobalt dust is most damaging to human health when inhaled. This is the fastest way of absorbing cobalt and inducing cobalt poisoning. On top of that, it can cause hard metal lung disease. Initial symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath and fatigue, but if exposure continues without medical intervention it can progress to fatal pulmonary fibrosis.

Cobalt could damage marine life, soil quality and the health

Finally, cobalt has environmental effects. If it runs off into waterways, it can damage marine life and soil quality, and subsequently affect the health of the human population.

Because of the multiple threats to humans and the environment, a comprehensive approach is necessary in situations where cobalt dust is produced. The central part of this is likely to be a powerful extractor capable of handling both dust and coarse particles.

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