Fact Sheet: Nickel


Brief Overview:
Contaminant: Nickel
Category: Inorganic
Treatment: Ion Exchange, Lime Softening, Reverse Osmosis

Nickel is a metal found in natural deposits as ores containing other elements. The greatest use of nickel is in making stainless steel and other alloys.

Production of nickel was 84.6 million lbs. in 1986. Nickel compounds can be made as a by-product during various industrial processes that use nickel catalysts, such as coal gasification, petroleum refining, and hydrogenation of fats and oils. They have also been identified in residual fuel oil and in atmospheric emissions from nickel refineries.

From 1987 to 1993, according to the Toxics Release Inventory nickel releases to land and water totaled nearly 27 million lbs. These releases were primarily from nickel smelting/refining and steelworks industries. The largest releases occurred in Oregon and Arkansas. The largest direct releases to water occurred in Maryland and Georgia.

What happens to Nickel when it is released to the environment? Nickel is one of the most mobile of the heavy metals when released to water, particularly in polluted waters, where organic material will keep nickel soluble. Though nickel does accumulate in aquatic life, it does not become magnified along food chains. Nickel released to soil may leach into ground water or be washed into surface water.

Short-term: Nickel is not known to cause any health problems when people are exposed to it at levels above the MCL for relatively short periods of time.
Long-term: Nickel has the potential to cause the following effects from a lifetime exposure at levels above the MCL: decreased body weight; heart and liver damage; skin irritation.

Ion Exchange, Lime Softening, Reverse Osmosis.