promoting the sustainable and responsible use of cobalt in all forms

Human Health Science

The benefits of cobalt to human health must be looked at alongside any adverse effects cobalt may have to health in a practical approach, by always weighing the risks against the benefits.



Benefits

Cobalt is a bioessential trace element for bacteria, plants, animals and humans. The form of cobalt needed by humans is known as Vitamin B12.

Cobalt is also naturally present in the earth’s crust, water, and the environment- meaning that cobalt levels would never be ‘zero’.

Cobalt has been used in the past for the treatment of certain types of anaemia and is still currently used in radiotherapy cancer treatment (as the radioisotope cobalt-60).

Cobalt is used in both the manufacturing and production of a wide variety of consumer goods (i.e. lithium ion batteries, alloys, pigments/dyes, catalysts).


Risks

Cobalt is known to have human health and environmental hazards which are communicated by the classification and appropriate labelling of each cobalt substance. Exposure to each cobalt substance is described and documented in "exposure scenarios".

Based on both hazard and exposure, risk is assessed and controlled. It is addressed by implementing a hierarchy of controls, ranging from engineering controls, to administrative controls, to protective gear.

Cobalt is essential to life, industry, and to sustainable development. At high enough doses however cobalt can be hazardous to health and the environment.

Paracelus physician and scientist
As Paracelsus, one of the founders of the field of toxicology, once said, “It is the dose that makes the poison”. Cobalt is essential to human life at an appropriate dose.


Impact

The CI is working hard to improve our scientific knowledge behind cobalt-related reactions, and is evaluating the associated impact on human health. See the following pages for more information.



DISCLAIMER

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.


Photo credit: After Quentin Matsys (1456/1466–1530) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons