The Nickel (Ni) that is mostly found in biological compounds is in the form of Ni (II).

It is not a widely available mineral and only 0.008% of the Earth’s crust is made up of this trace element.

Nickel is found in all soil and is also emitted from volcanoes. It is usually found combined with other naturally occurring elements in the earth’s crust, and is the 24th most abundant element in the environment. Millerite (NiS), nickelite (NiAs), and pentlanditae ((Ni,Fe)S are the principal ores of nickel.

The Nickel Element and its industrial usage

Nickel is a white metal with a faint tinge of yellow and is used worldwide in making alloys such as copper-nickel (75% copper, 25% nickel); these alloys are often used in manufacturing and in the production of coins.

Stainless steel normally contains 8% nickel and 12% to 18% chromium. It is used in the strongly ferromagnetic alloy alnico production, which is used in creating strong permanent magnets.

Iron objects are often plated with nickel for the purpose of corrosion resistance.  This element is also used in making white gold for jewelry use (in alloy with gold).

Nickel is often released into the atmosphere by industries that use or make nickel, nickel compounds, or nickel alloys. Trash incinerators, coal-burning power plants, and oil-burning power plants can also lead to the emission of Nickel into the atmosphere.

Pure Nickels Impact on the Human Body

There are several factors that will determine whether or not a person who is exposed to nickel may become harmed. Such factors include the duration (how long), the dose (how much), and the manner in which the person came into contact with it. Other factors need to be considered as well such as gender, age, lifestyle, diet, state of health, and family traits.

If a person was to breathe air containing nickel or ingest food or water that contains nickel, then the element may enter the body. Some of the inhaled nickel may reach the lungs, and may even enter the blood; this is dependent on the size of the nickel particles. Larger particles are usually deposited within the nose while smaller particles may enter deep into the lungs.

The Affect of Nickel on Microorganisms

Different studies have been conducted on how nickel transport and homeostatic mechanisms can affect microorganisms. Non-specific nickel influx takes place through the CorA system in bacteria and Saccharomyces cerevisiae and the bacteria’s high affinity nickel transport happens via HoxN-type permeases and ABC-type transporters. Nickel uptake in fungi can occur through magnesium transport systems.

Nickel Allergies

Allergic reaction is the most common harmful health effect of nickel in humans; it is thought that about 10% to 20% of the world’s population is sensitive to nickel.

Prolonged contact or direct contact of Nickel with the skin can promote a person’s sensitivity. However, not all jewelries that contain this element release nickel ions that can sensitize a person. Further contact with the metal can yield a reaction such as skin rash at the site of contact, after being sensitized to nickel. A type of skin rash known as dermatitis can develop.

The most severe harmful effects of nickel exposure such as nasal sinus, reduced lung function, chronic, and bronchitis cancer of the lung, have occurred in individuals who have breathed dust that contain nickel compounds as opposed to those who come into contact with alloys. Most of these people are working in nickel processing plants or nickel refineries.