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Nickel is a silvery, hard and ductile metallic element that occurs in a variety of minerals, such as millerite [nickel sulfide], pentlandite [nickel-iron sulfide] and nickel-copper sulfide. The element is a ferromagnetic metal of group 10 (VIIIb) on the periodic table, and is markedly resistant to oxidation and corrosion.
Commonly used chemical compounds of nickel include nitrate, carbonate, sulphate, acetate and hydroxide; and oxide and oxalate. It is an important ingredient of copper-nickel alloys and is also used in the manufacturing of stainless steel, nickel-copper, nickel-chromium and other alloys for corrosion resistance.
Biologically, nickel is an essential component of the cells of plants and some microorganisms. It is known as a cofactor for enzymes in the Archaea, bacteria, algae and primitive eukaryotes and is vital to photosynthesis.
Biosorption by microorganisms and fungi has been widely studied as an environmental solution for heavy metal pollution, particularly nickel. This is done by the interaction of nickel particles with a range of bacterial and fungal metabolites, including Pseudomonas fluorescent, Bacillus cereus and Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and filamentous fungi Trichoderma atroviride strains F6.
Allergy to nickel: a potential health risk
Allergy to nickel is a potential health threat, and it may develop when a person comes into contact with nickel-containing items such as earrings, coins or cellphones. The symptoms of nickel allergy are typically contact dermatitis, headaches and gastrointestinal or respiratory manifestations. In severe cases, nickel allergy can lead to asthma, chronic bronchitis and reduced lung function.