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Cornell iGEM

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Project Background

Health Risks

Nickel, is a natural element that constitutes approximately 0.009% of the earth's crust. Nickel sulfides, silicates and oxides are commonly used in mining and natural resources [EPA paper, source 2]. The most common nickel sulfide mineral is pentlandite [(NiFe)9S8] accounts for the majority of nickel produced globally [source 4,5]. Domestic nickel production comes from the smelting of natural nickel ores, refining nickel matte, an impure metallic sulfide product from smelting of sulfides of metal ores, reclamation of nickel metal from nickel based or non-nickel based scrap metal, including salvaged machinery, sheet metal, aircraft and other vehicular parts and discarded consumer goods such as batteries.

Nickel compounds are used in construction, mining, smelting, electrical equipment manufacturing, and battery and fuel cell production, among numerous other materials. During construction, there is a high risk for nickel contamination. They can also make their way into the household through ceramics since they often form the bond between enamel and iron.

Nickel compounds are so toxic because they are highly resistant to corrosion and oxidation in air and aqueous environments; they are resistant to corrosion by organic acids and exposure to chlorine, fluorine, hydrogen chloride and molten salts. Est. average daily dietary intake is 0.1-0.3 mg/day [AUS sources 7,8] Less than 0.2 mg/day of which is consumed via food and 5-25 ug/day from water [AUS source 4]. Dermal exposure is one of the most common routes of exposure and even low levels of exposure may cause nickel allergic dermatitis. [AUS sources 16-18]

Common Effects:[1]
Gastrointestinal distress like: nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
Dermatitis (eczema like effects: rash, itchiness)
Neurological effects
Nickel specific asthma

Extreme Cases: Coma, death [1] "Nickel Compounds." EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2014. .

Case Studies

Current Remediation Techniques



  1. Ref 1
  2. Ref 2
  3. Ref 3