Protecting the Environment

The Cobalt Institute seeks to increase the understanding of the role and presence of cobalt in the environment so as to ensure its safe use while addressing environmental challenges.

Gathering data and furthering comprehension understanding of the levels of cobalt that are safe in the environment are important aspects of the work of the Cobalt Institute. Concentrations of cobalt in the environment are carefully managed to make sure it is beneficial at an essential dose and not harmful when present in excess.

The presence of cobalt in the environment is understood and managed by:

Risk assessment

The risk assessment of cobalt brings together data of cobalt exposure and effects to determine levels of cobalt in the environment that are safe, for example by calculating Predicted No Effect Concentrations (PNEC) for organisms in soil, sediment, and water. Environmental risk assessment also considers the accumulation of cobalt in foods that may be consumed by humans. These safe levels are compared to cobalt concentrations in the environment and used to inform the emissions of cobalt from industrial plants.

Developing understanding of the chemical forms and concentrations of cobalt that occur in the environment to better characterise organism exposure

Different forms of cobalt in the environment have different impact on organisms that live there. In water, sediments and soils, for example, the forms of cobalt are affected by pH, concentrations of organic matter, and water hardness. In turn, these factors affect the uptake “bioavailability” of cobalt in organisms and therefore its potential toxicity. The Cobalt Institute has developed computational models to predict cobalt toxicity in waters with different chemistries.

Developing biological effects datasets

The Cobalt Institute conducts research to characterize exposures and effects in a range of organisms that inhabit soils, sediments, and waters. High-quality data from these studies are then used for hazard classification and risk assessment.

Hazard classifications

Regulatory authorities use biological effects data to communicate the intrinsic potential of cobalt or mixtures containing cobalt, to cause harm.