Nickel is found in ambient air at very low levels, about 6-20 µg Ni/m3 as a result of releases from oil and coal combustion, nickel metal refining, sewage sludge incineration and trash incinerators, manufacturing facilities, natural sources, cigarette smoke and other sources.
Oil and Coal Combustion
- Nickel is released in the air by oil-burning power plants and coal-burning power plants. The nickel that comes out of the stacks of power plants attaches to small particles of dust that settle to the ground or are taken out of the air in rain or snow. It usually takes many days for nickel to be removed from the air. If the nickel is attached to tiny particles, it can take more than a month to settle out of the air. –atsdr.cdc.gov
Nickel Metal refining
- Human studies have reported an increased risk of lung and nasal cancers among nickel refinery workers exposed to nickel refinery dust. Nickel refinery dust is a mixture of many nickel compounds, with nickel subsulfide being the major constituent. (epa.gov 3,4,6)
- Animal studies have also reported lung tumors from inhalation exposure to nickel refinery dust and nickel subsulfide. EPA has classified nickel refinery dust and nickel subsulfide as Group A, human carcinogens. (3,4)
Sewage Sludge Incineration and Trash Incinerators
- Nickel released through industrial wastewater ends up in soil or sediment where it attaches to particles containing iron or manganese. When it rains, small particles of nickel are in the air, or the soil can be washed into surface water by runoff. –Texas DSHS
- They are commonly released by industries that make or use nickel, nickel alloys, or nickel compounds. Elevated levels of nickel may be encountered near industries using nickel and/or nickel compounds. Occupational exposure can occur in industries using nickel in various forms. Others may come into contact with the dust containing nickel carried on the clothes of workers if worn inside the home.-Texas DSHS
- Nickel occurs naturally in surface water from the weathering of minerals and rocks, so it is not unusual found in both surface and groundwater systems. Nickel and nickel compounds are mainly carried as particles in the air, both from natural sources (such as volcanoes) and from human activity. –Texas DSHS
- Breathing cigarette smoke or smoking tobacco is another way of being exposed to nickel. An average cigarette contains 1-3 µg Ni, and the intake of cigarettes increases the daily amount of nickel inhaled by about 4 µg Ni (Barceloux, 1999)
- Nickel is in the environment, and most commonly found combined with oxygen and sulfur. Well, that does it, next time you tell people you are allergic to air, they will believe you.