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Zirconium Compounds Toxicity


Introduction :
 
Zirconium (Zr) constitutes about 0.2% of the earth's crust, common minerals bind zircon, zirconium dioxide and zirconates.
 
Uses :
 
- in alloys and metals used in nuclear power, aerospace and various chemical industries;
- in the manufacture of ceramics, glass, and porcelains;
- in the synthesis of pigments, dyes, and water repellants;
- in tanning operations;
- in abrasive and polishing materials
- as igniters in the manufacture of munitions and detonators;
- in lighter flints;
- in skin ointments and antiperspirants;
- as a "gas getter" in the manufacture of high-vacuum tubes;
- as a deoxidizer, denitrifier and desulfurizer in iron and steel manufacture
 
Typical Compounds :
 
- zirconium hydride (ZrH2),
- zirconium oxide (ZrO2),
- zirconium oxychloride (ZrOCl2.8H2O),
- zirconium silicate (ZrSiO2),
- zirconium tetrachloride (ZrCl4),
- zirconyl acetate (H2ZrO2(C2H3)2)2),
 
 
Occupational exposures :
 
Potential occupational exposures to zirconium may be encountered during :
- liberation from refining and casting operations,
- preparation of alloys.
- In the manufacture of metal or alloys.
 
Toxicology :
 
Zirconium compounds are generally considered to be of low toxicity.
 
Skin :
 
Granulomata have been produced by repeated topical applications of zirconium salts to human skin.
Zirconium compounds are commonly used in antiperspirants and thus sometimes cause granulomata of the axillary skin. Aluminium zirconium compounds, which are mainly used today, are considered to be safer in this regard.
 
Lungs :
 
Studies among workers exposed to zirconium compounds fumes have failed to demonstrate adverse pulmonary effects.
However, a recent report shows that severe pulmonary fibrosis containing high concentrations of several zirconium compounds occurred in a worker polishing and blocking lenses in an optical company.
 
Eyes :
 
In my personal experience I have encountered a corneal burn with a subsequent scar in a titanium dioxide plant caused by the ocular projection of a small drop of liquid zirconium sulfate at the place where it was introduced into the process.
 
Quebec's exposure limit :
 
VEMP (Valeur d'Exposition Moyenne Pondérée) = 5mg/m³
 
References :
1-Occupational Medicine,Carl Zenz, last edition.
2-Clinical Environmental Health and Toxic Exposures, Sullivan & Krieger; last edition.
3-Sax's Dangerous Properties of Industrial Materials, Lewis C., last edition.
4-Toxicologie Industrielle et Intoxications Professionnelles, Lauwerys R.R. last edition.
5-Chemical Hazards of the Workplace, Proctor & Hughes, 4th edition




Edouard Bastarache M.D.
Occupational & Environmental Medicine
Author of "Substitutions for Raw Ceramic Materials"
Tracy, Québec, CANADA

edouardb@sorel-tracy.qc.ca
http://www.sorel-tracy.qc.ca/~edouardb/

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