Cobalt is a naturally occurring element in the Earth’s crust (at around 20-30 parts per million (mg/kg); the 32nd most abundant element) and as a consequence cobalt substances are naturally and ubiquitously present in the air, soil, sediments and water.
In addition, because of worldwide use, cobalt can be released into the environment as a result of man’s activities.
Whilst cobalt is an essential element for most forms of life, at high enough concentrations it can have adverse effects. As part of promoting the responsible use of cobalt, the Cobalt Institute (CI) has conducted research to characterise environmental exposures and possible effects of cobalt to a range of organisms that inhabit waters, sediments and soils. This information is used to identify “safe” environmental concentrations and to inform industry and regulatory authorities about the acceptable uses of cobalt in the materials and products that we use in our daily lives.
Whilst cobalt is an essential element for most forms of life, at high enough concentrations it can have adverse effects.
One of the key factors determining the effects of cobalt in the environment is the availability of cobalt to be taken up into the bodies of organisms. A variety of factors can affect the ‘bioavailability’ of cobalt and many of these factors are associated with the physico-chemical characteristics of the environmental medium (e.g. pH, water hardness, and concentrations of organic matter). The CI has investigated the role of various physico-chemical parameters on cobalt bioavailability and their effect on cobalt toxicity and this information has been used to develop computer-based models to allow us to predict the roles of those parameters on the toxicity of cobalt under realistic environmental conditions.
This summary is intended to provide general information about the topic under consideration. It does not constitute a complete or comprehensive analysis, and reflects the state of knowledge and information at the time of its preparation. This summary should not be relied upon to treat or address health, environmental, or other conditions.