Postby Oscar » Tue Feb 27, 2018 10:25 am

Cobalt facts

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By Clean Water on February 25, 2018 | 1 Comment

What is Cobalt?

Cobalt is a chemical element. Its symbol is Co and its atomic number is 27. The cobalt atom cannot be broken down into other chemicals, but it can combine with other elements to form molecules or compounds with different characteristics. Some cobalt compounds can easily mix with water.

The mineral’s name comes from long ago when miners in Europe called the cobalt-bearing rock “kobold” (German for goblin), because when it was heated for smelting it gave off poisonous arsenic-containing fumes.

The main uses for cobalt are for high-temperature hard metal alloys, lithium ion batteries, catalysts to promote certain chemical reactions, pigments and colouring (eg. cobalt blue). The radioactive isotope Cobalt 60 is used in nuclear medicine.

Cobalt and Health

Cobalt is an ultra-trace mineral needed for health in very small quantities — less than one ten-thousandth of a percent (0.0001% ) of body weight. Most soils contain some cobalt, so people and animals get enough cobalt just by eating normal food. In larger quantities, cobalt is unhealthy.

In 1991,the World Heath Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified cobalt and its compounds as Group 2B, possibly carcinogenic to humans because the number and size of studies showing an increase in lung cancer as a result of human cobalt exposure were too small to make stronger conclusions; animal studies showed a strong relationship between cancer and specific cobalt compounds. In 2006, IARC classified cobalt metal with tungsten carbide in powders, hard metals, or sintered carbides as Group 2A, probably carcinogenic to humans. Larger, more robust studies are still needed to to know for sure. Increased cancer risk has been reported for people who work with cobalt compounds that do not contain tungsten carbide, however these studies were also small. Some of the IARC working group members supported an evaluation as Group 1 (carcinogenic to humans) because they judged the epidemiological evidence to be sufficient and/or they judged the mechanistic evidence to be strong enough to justify stating that cobalt is definitely carcinogenic to humans.

The Fortune Minerals Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) states that it expects Cobalt may be present in its air emissions from smokestacks (Page 37 EIS Main Document). In the EIS the company did not include any impacts of dust coming off the waste storage pits, as they assumed the material would always be too wet to form dust. The waste pits would contain cobalt.

Cobalt and Environment

In June 2017, the Government of Canada placed all cobalt compounds on the list of toxic substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA).

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and Health Canada conducted a joint scientific assessment relevant to the evaluation of cobalt and cobalt-containing substances in Canada. Their summary of findings says:

“Cobalt is highly toxic to sensitive aquatic organisms, sediment-dwelling organisms and terrestrial organisms. The survival, growth or reproduction of these organisms may be affected. In addition, biological diversity and the stability of the food chain may be adversely impacted by cobalt (e.g. reduction in the quality and quantity of fish food sources). There is experimental evidence that cobalt causes harm to aquatic freshwater organisms, such as invertebrates, algae/plants, and fish, following short-term (acute) and longer-term (chronic) exposure at very low concentrations.”

“Cobalt, once dissolved in water from the substances, may be taken up by aquatic-, soil-, and sediment-dwelling organisms to which it has been demonstrated to cause harm at very low concentrations in terms of survival, growth, or reproduction. Therefore, cobalt and soluble cobalt compounds were determined to have the potential to cause ecological harm as defined under paragraph 64(a) of CEPA.”

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