Cobalt was the first metal to be discovered since prehistoric times

When most of us hear the word we think of the color blue. But the purified metal is actually a grey steel color, while the salts that include cobalt are shades of blue. This color of blue has been around since the 16th century and is commonly found in paints and glass art.

What do we know about cobalt today?

Cobalt can accumulate toxic levels in the liver, kidney, pancreas, and heart, as well as the skeleton and skeletal muscle. Cobalt is often found in areas with high levels of arsenic, which is why it’s important to know what kind of products contain this metal.

Cobalt is present in many different types of products

Since cobalt is a metal, it’s commonly found in alloys (i.e. stainless steel and costume jewelry). Any jewelry that is purchased for very cheap or from overseas contains a high level of cobalt. Since cobalt allergies are on the rise, it is important to know where your jewelry is coming from. This type of alloy can cause rashes from necklaces, bracelets, rings or any other type of jewelry that contains cobalt.

Cobalt is also found in cheap face paints, body glitter, and eye shadows. Currently, there is no way to know if face paint contains cobalt or other heavy metals. There is no FDA safety standard on these metals in face paints and the federal law does not require them to be listed on these products. It is important to do some research before buying these products or cut out unnecessary items that could contain this alloy.

This alloy can also be found in chocolate, cashews and kidney beans. According to the Agency of Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, chocolate is one of the foods that have the highest nickel and cobalt content. These alloys are added during the refining process and in constant contact with stainless steel machinery.

When purchasing food and other goods, it’s important to know where these items are coming from. Limiting our exposure to dangerous and unnecessary alloys is vital for maintaining a healthy life.

[Supply Chain Professionals]

Do you sell products that contain cobalt?

Cobalt is an essential raw material for superalloy, cemented carbide, diamond tool, batteries, anticorrosive and magnetic materials. It is widely applied in fields including aerospace, electronic appliances, machinery manufacturing, automobiles, chemical industry, agriculture, ceramics, etc. An important fact to note is that lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles are estimated to experience the largest increase in consumption of battery-used cobalt. Global production volume of electric vehicles grew exponentially in recent years, with a growth rate far higher than that of traditional automobiles. The production volume in China reached 710,000 units in 2017, up by 30% over the previous year. As the major raw material for electric vehicles, cobalt is expected to boast rapid growth. Moreover, power batteries account for the largest proportion in the downstream application of cobalt.

Industry practitioners should begin assessing their company’s risk associated with the sourcing of cobalt. While a specific regulation has yet to be promulgated, many experts have hinted that given the reputational, financial and legal risk associated with current controversial sourcing practices, it’s only a matter of time before cobalt becomes “the next conflict mineral”.

Though cobalt is often bucketed into the general conflict minerals conversation, cobalt carries unique characteristics that differentiate it from the rest of the 3TG minerals. If you’re not sure about your involvement with the cobalt mineral, click here to take the cobalt self-assessment that Source Intelligence created to better help companies understand their responsibilities around the ethical sourcing of cobalt.

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