California Considers Listing Nickel as a Reproductive Toxicant

The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) is considering classifying nickel and nickel compounds and including them in a DART Proposition 65 listing. The Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee (DARTIC) plans to discuss the matter and make a decision at its meeting on October 11. If the participants vote for inclusion on the list, the use of nickel would be restricted, with a potentially significant effect on the industry. Nickel is used in steel alloys, catalyzers, batteries, and pigments.

The Nickel Institute, a global association of leading nickel producers, stated that the move in California was not anticipated at this time. The initiative is particularly perplexing, says the Institute, because in 2015 DARTIC voted this as a medium to low priority. In fact, the hazards posed by nickel and its compounds have been evaluated by agencies around the world many times over, and its negative effects on health and the environment are well known. Consequently, many nickel substances are already included in the Proposition 65 list because of carcinogenicity. Only nickel carbonyl is listed under DART for reproductive toxicity. In the EU, water-soluble nickel compounds are classified as substances with reproductive toxicity properties of Category 1B in the CLP Regulation. No corresponding classification exists for nickel in metal form and insoluble nickel compounds because they are expected to have much lower bioavailability than the water soluble nickel compounds, as shown by toxicokinetic studies (i.e it is more difficult for these forms of nickel to be absorbed into the body either by inhalation, oral ingestion or through the skin). Relevant exposure to nickel and nickel compounds is limited to the workplace and any potential risks to workers are controlled by workplace safety and health regulations.

The studies undertaken to date have focused on skin sensitization and carcinogenicity. More-recent evaluations are based on the results of several recent epidemiological studies that are summarized in a 342-page document. Public comments on the document can be made up to September 11 as part of a public consultation.

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