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Health effects of working in a Nickel plating shop

I want to know if anyone has information regarding any health effects of working around Nickel plating baths even on a well ventilated area. Has anyone known or heard about someone experiencing headaches, nausea or stomach cramps from working in a Nickel plating shop?

Alfonso Benavides
Encycle, Texas - Corpus Christi, Texas

Hey Alfonso, I have been around plating shops for some many years and no I have never seen or heard of anything like that. Regards, Fred Mueller, CEF

Fred Mueller, CEF
- Royersford, Pennsylvania

Headaches, nausea and stomach cramps in a nickel plating shop? Headaches from the boss... sure. Or from anxiety over your health, for that matter. Or from the heat, humidity, and molds in the air. (can you tell I used to live in Corpus Christi?)

Nausea and stomach cramps? Well, nickel would not be the first thing to jump to mind. Lead or even cadmium would be. Both are easy to rule out, if you are not afraid of needles, with a blood test. If neither of these is possible in your workplace, I'd first be suspicious about other things,like did a stomach virus just sweep through your workplace?

Otherwise, just a general tip, remember that you MUST keep your hands and face clean and any materials like dip, gum, lunch, drinks, smokes or anything else that goes in your mouth in a completely clean area. IF you have even a tiny bit of metal-containing solution on your hands and handle a cigarette which you then light, you practically mainline the toxin into your tender lungs.

Your company should have industrial hygiene data available to let you know what your airborne exposures are or could be. (Remembering that if you are not really careful about protecting yourself the airborne levels may not be the whole story.) Why don't you ask your safety guys? Or even OSHA, I know they are familiar with your worksite.

Julia L. Sager, CIH
- San Antonio Texas

November 26, 2011

I notice that your question has been phrased to relate only to health effects from Nickel plating solution. Whereas in a nickel electroplating facility there are a wide variety of different chemicals in use. I shall assume here that you are asking about health effects from inhalation. The presence of strong acids in air have been proven to cause various health effects. Here I particularly refer to the pickle solution causing acidification of the atmosphere.
This is a very complex issue and has unfortunately been almost completely overlooked within the plating industry.
The most common effects from inhalation of acid fumes are respiratory in nature. These effects include asthma, bronchitis and RADS. However, certain individuals are susceptible to non-respiratory health effects including gastritis, nausea, and ulceration of mucous membranes.
When chemical sensitisation occurs, due to either long term exposure to low doses or a high dose catastrophic incident, an individual can have a very significant response thereafter to even small doses of incitant chemical.
This can result in "susceptible-worker-selection" where most of those people who experience problems just leave the industry. However, not all such workers leave in time, mostly because the on-set of symptoms can sometimes be delayed until some time after exposure, especially at the earlier stages of chronic chemical poisoning. Nausea, cough, and many other effects are proven to be coincident with chemical poisoning. Only some individuals appear to be effected severely, and partly for this reason, this phenomena has not been as obvious as it should be.
It is a fact that the possible health effects reported by chemical suppliers in their safety literature are often not comprehensive. In the case of mineral acid exposure for example, there are many proven health effects from inhalation. However, suppliers of such acids often give a very brief description such as "Irritant". Thus, without thorough investigation, a person would wrongly assume that they were fully informed just by reading the suppliers data sheet.
I hope that your symptoms are not serious and that a full recovery is made quickly.

Richard Ward
- London, England

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