Tungsten carbid-Cobalt – Exposure

From epidemiologic studies on hard metal workers the so called “hard-metal-disease” is known, which is characterised by lung fibrosis, asthma and lung cancer [1,2].

Tungsten carbide-cobalt (WC-Co) is a non-naturally occurring compound, which is technically produced from tungsten ores and by mixing of WC powders with cobalt.

Since many years, micro-scale tungsten carbide-cobalt (WC-Co) particles have been used in the hard metal industry, while the production and application of nano-sized particles has been introduced only recently. Accordingly, the majority of available toxicity data stem from research on micro-sized particles, only few studies exist on nano-sized WC-Co particles. Because tools made of nanoparticles are much harder compared to tools made of micro-sized particles, the application of nanoparticles in hard metal industry is likely to increase.

Occupational exposure is the main exposure path for humans, particularly for workers in the hard metal industry. Workers are exposed to tungsten carbide-cobalt (WC-Co) dusts when powders are handled or tools are polished, and particles may be inhaled or absorbed via the skin.


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