From epidemiologic studies on hard metal workers the so called “hard-metal-disease” is known, which is characterised by lung fibrosis, asthma and lung cancer [1,2].


However, this disease pattern only occurs, when workers are exposed to tungsten carbide-cobalt (WC-Co), not to tungsten carbide or cobalt alone. If exposed to only one of the compounds, no lung diseases were observed. The “hard-metal-lung” is an approved occupational disease in Germany, which very rarely occurs due to extensive work protection measures.

Besides the occurrence of lung diseases, a possible link of WC-Co exposure with an increased rate of childhood leukaemia in Fallon (Nevada, USA) has been discussed, since the temporal occurrence of the diseases coincided well with an increase in airborne tungsten and cobalt levels [3]. However, this potential link has been controversially discussed and viruses as alterniative cause for the enhanced leukaemia rate have been suggested.



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