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Crit Rev Toxicol. 1990;20(6):427-37.

Cobalt exposure and cancer risk.

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Section of Environmental and Occupational Toxicology, Danish Institute of Toxicology, Tastrup, Denmark.


Cobalt is a technically important metal, used mainly as a binder in the hard-metal industry and as a constituent of many alloys. Cobalt compounds are used as drying agents in paints and laquers. Since ancient times, cobalt compounds have been used as coloring agents for pottery, ceramics, and glass. Soluble cobalt salts interfere adversely with cell division, bind irreversibly to nucleic acids in the cell nucleus, induce chromosome aberrations in plants, and are weakly mutagenic in some in vitro tests with cultured animal cells, bacteria, and yeast. Injections or implantation of cobalt metal, cobalt alloys, and cobalt compounds induced local and sometimes metastasizing sarcomas in rats, rabbits, and mice. Mouse is the least susceptible animal. The only published inhalation study with hamsters exposed to CoO aerosols remained non-positive. Indication of possible carcinogenic effects of cobalt alloys or compounds in human populations has arisen from medical use, in hard-metal industries, and at cobalt production. Unfortunately, confounding by nickel and arsenic is a major problem, and the size of most of the investigated populations has been rather small, so none of the investigations alone gives sufficient evidence of a carcinogenic effect in humans, but taken together there is an indication of a carcinogenic potential that should be explored further.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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