Inhalation toxicity of niobium

© Fraunhofer ITEM
The heavy metal niobium – the picture shows an electron micrograph of niobium pentoxide powder – adds strength to materials. Fraunhofer ITEM researchers have investigated the toxicity of niobium in the respiratory tract.

Fine and nanosized dusts occurring at industrial workplaces are highly relevant to occupational safety. They have therefore been subject to regulatory measures for a long time in order to protect employees from adverse lung conditions, such as fibrosis, silicosis or, in the worst case, lung tumors. The definition of limit values is aimed at ruling out health hazards to workers, especially from lung diseases, even for prolonged exposure.


The chemical element niobium is marketed in large tonnage for industrial use. Niobium adds strength to materials and is used, among other things, as an alloying addition in a wide range of products. In addition, niobium is frequently employed in nuclear technology, in welding electrodes, capacitors, halogen lamps, catalysts, and for surface coating of implants. In an in vivo study conducted at Fraunhofer ITEM, the toxic potential of niobium pentoxide towards the respiratory tract was investigated. In this 90-day inhalation study, a dose was identified that caused no effects. In the next step, a limit value will be derived, and this can then be used to define measures for the safe handling at workplaces and also for end users. In the study, niobium pentoxide proved to be what is known as an inert dust, i.e. a substance with no known harmful effect on the human body.

Gustav Bruer

Contact Press / Media

Dr. Gustav Bruer

Head of Department of Inhalation Toxicology

Phone +49 511 5350-521