February 24 2015 - In This Issue:
Dear Customer


Below is a new article on the Heavy & Toxic Metal; Cobalt.  Over the next few weeks or so we will be bringing you a new article each week on the rest of the heavy metals - there are about 24 of them now being labelled as such.


You can see details of them here over the next couple of weeks if you do not wish to wait for the weekly articles:


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Cobalt (Co) All Around You 

By Clifford Woods

Word Origin: The name of the element cobalt (Co) has an interesting origin. It came from the German word "kobold", for an evil spirit, mostly associated with goblins.


The miners of old had smelted some blue mineral ores in an attempt to produce precious nickel and copper, but all they got was a pile of gray ash. 


Worse, the smelters involved grew sick and died, having inhaled the resulting vapours of the yet-unknown arsenic, leaving the impression that the blue ores were obviously the essence of evil and should be left alone.

History: It has been known since ancient times that some precious glass were coloured a mesmerizing blue. Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia particularly valued minerals for being blue.


However, this property has often been confused with the element bismuth (which occurs in abundance along with the minerals) and thus was not recognized to be another separate element.


In 1735, however, a Swedish chemist named George Brandt was able to reduce these minerals to the pure metal to prove the existence of this unknown element, and the new discovery was named after its already unsavoury reputation: as the kobold.


Interestingly, it was the first metal to be "discovered" since the pre-historic times (as the other known metals such as iron and copper were already recognized and could not be attributed to any single discoverer).

Exposure and Effects on the Body: As mentioned, the pure metal form is practically non-existent in nature. Its compounds, however, are abundant. 


Though mostly stable and nonreactive to the human body, they should be considered toxic unless otherwise known.


Also, given today's applications for its artificially-reduced metal form, especially in modern medical science, the prospect of exposure to Co is high compared to prehistoric times.


Exposure generally requires high levels and for an extended duration such as weeks or months to produce symptoms. 


All cobaltic compounds should always be deemed as toxic unless identified otherwise. Some cobaltic compounds can be carcinogenic (producing or tending to produce cancer).

Exposure can include inhalation, oral intake of a considerable amount all at once, or continual contact with any part of the body such as the skin.


Inhalation is not uncommon in industrial sites where the processes release the metallic dust into the air.


Breathing in the dust will cause lung problems in the long run, usually those associated with breathing such as asthma, or more serious ones such as fibrosis (scarring in the lung tissue).


Constant contact with skin might cause rashes, and is a major cause of contact dermatitis, similar to the effects of other metals such as chromium and nickel.

Oral intake in an amount that is large and absorbable is not very likely or dangerous. At most, symptoms may include vomiting and nausea.


However, intake for a longer duration can lead to more serious cases. In the 1960's in Canada, the adding of cobaltic compounds to control beer foam led to an unusual form of cardiomyopathy (the condition where the heart becomes swollen and has difficulty pumping) which became known as the beer drinker's cardiomyopathy. 


Neurotoxicity is a high risk from a metal artificial hip for persons who underwent hip replacements.

Symptoms include hypothyroidism, optic nerve damage, memory loss, decreased hearing acuity, and tremors.


The severity of the nerve damage depends on the duration of the exposure (symptoms may generally manifest after several months) and the amount of this metal in the blood.

In nutrition, being a key constituent of vitamin B12 makes it an essential chemical to all life, though only in tiny amounts. 


Grazing animals take it in from the soil, and its deficiency may result in what is known as bush sickness.


In humans, this deficiency can become lethal by leading to pernicious anaemia, but such deficiency is extremely rare due to its abundance.

What can be done about exposure? 

  • If the Co particles are airborne, the first step is to leave the area and get into some fresh air.
  • In case of skin contact, the affected area should be washed thoroughly and carefully. Of course, further skin contact should be avoided and the offending object removed or replaced. Your doctor may prescribe a skin cream to ease irritation, but mostly the rashes and irritation will fade slowly in time with no further complications.
  • In case of swallowing, this may not be dangerous. 

However, call your local poison hotline for help immediately to be sure. Remember to consider all compounds as toxic unless otherwise known.

In the case of metal hip replacements that are causing the poisoning, the prosthesis will need to be replaced. 


Also, large levels of the element in the blood may require haemodialysis (filtering of circulating blood) and antidotes. Talk with your doctor if you may need to have it chelated from your system.

The good news: one-time exposure usually leads to recovery with no further complications. However, long-term poisoning is not usually rectifiable; life-long maintenance medicine may have to be taken permanently.

Technical: Cobalt (Co) is a silver-grey ferromagnetic (of or relating to substances with an abnormally high magnetic permeability) metal existing in the form of numerous compounds abundant in the earth's crust. 


However, it is virtually non-existent in its pure metal form, thanks to the presence of oxygen and chlorine in the atmosphere and oceans, which erodes and inhibits the formation of the metal.


The only "pure metal" form can be found in extra-terrestrial matter such as meteorites.


Today, it is reduced to metal form artificially and is mostly used in industry for the production of wear-resistant, super-strong, magnetic alloys.

Also, it is a crucial component of a group of coenzymes known as cobalamins, which are important to nutrition; a common example is vitamin B12. It is essential to practically all forms of life.

Symbol: Co
Atomic Number: 27
Atomic Mass: 58.933195 amu
Melting Point: 1768 K (1495�C or 2723�F)
Boiling Point: 3200 K (2927�C or 5301�F)
Number of Protons/Electrons: 27
Number of Neutrons: 32
Classification: Transition metal
Uses: metallurgy, pigments, diet supplement

Some More Facts about Cobalt (Co):
Co metal is mainly used to create alloys. These include super-alloys used in applications that require temperature stability, such as jet engines and gas turbines, as well as corrosion and wear resistance, which surprisingly includes medical uses such as orthopaedics.


In contrast to its applications today, it was dominantly used only as a pigment in ancient times.


Marmite, eaten in England as a source of vitamin B12, contains Co. Its Australian equivalent is called Vegemite.


Its radioactive isotopes are used in medical science as a source of gamma rays, used for the treatment of cancer.


Its powder form is a fire hazard.


The alloy known as alnico, composed of this element combined with aluminium and nickel is used to produce powerful magnets.




[The information contained in this article is believed to be reliable. I have taken every precaution to verify its accuracy; I am not a medical professional and make no warranties, representations or guarantees of any kind as to its accuracy. Medical knowledge is in a constant state of change, and what I have written here may be out of date by the time you read it. The information that I have provided here is for informational purposes only and not for use in diagnosing any condition that you may or may not have. Always consult with you doctor before treating yourself.]