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Subject: Cobalt

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  • Cobalt is an essential trace element and an integral part of cyanocobalamin (vitamin B12). It is also used industrially in the manufacture of high-strength alloys used for cutting/drilling tools, in the semiconductor industry, and as a pigment. Acutely toxic in large doses and in cumulative long-term low-level exposure from cobalt processing plants, hard metal industry, diamond polishing, and ceramic industry.

  • Chronic exposure to inorganic cobalt salts, either by ingestion or by inhalation of dust, causes respiratory distress, dyspnea, and pneumoconiosis or can lead to cardiomyopathy. Inorganic cobalt can induce hemoglobin synthesis, as well as hypertriglyceridemia and hypercholesterolemia.

  • Cobalt is quickly cleared through the kidneys, and urine cobalt measurements are a useful indicator of recent exposure.

  • Normal range: Less than 1 μg/L.


  • Assessing occupational and environmental cobalt exposure

  • Detection of cobalt toxicity

  • Monitoring metallic implants wear


Increased In

  • Renal patients receiving erythropoietin agents

  • ESRD patients undergoing hemodialysis

  • Very heavy drinkers of beer with added cobalt

  • Individuals with deteriorating metal implants

Decreased In

  • NA.


  • Diet, medications, supplements (nutritional and mineral), B12, or B-complex vitamins may interfere test results. Recommend avoid 3 days prior to testing.

  • False-positive test results may occur from using noncertified trace element collection tubes.

  • High concentrations of gadolinium and iodine are known to interfere (should wait 96 hours to clear).

  • Analysis of cobalt concentration is of little use in the determination of vitamin B12 deficiency.

  • To assess occupational exposure, sample should be collected at the end of the shift on the last day of workweek.