Vanadium is a chemical element with symbol V and atomic number 23. [1]

It occurs in nature as a white-to-grey metal compounds, and is often found as crystals. Pure vanadium has no smell. It usually combines with other elements such as oxygen, sodium, sulfur, or chloride. [2] Vanadium resists corrosion due to a protective film of oxide on the surface. Common oxidation states of vanadium include +2, +3, +4 and +5. [3] Vanadium and vanadium compounds can be found in the earth’s crust and in rocks, some iron ores, and crude petroleum deposits. [2]

Uses [3,4]

Most of the vanadium (about 80%) produced is used as ferrovanadium or as a steel additive. Mixed with aluminium in titanium alloys is used in jet engines and high speed air-frames, and steel alloys are used in axles, crankshafts, gears and other critical components. Vanadium alloys are also used in nuclear reactors because vanadium has low neutron-adsorption abilities and it does not deform in creeping under high temperatures. Vanadium oxide (V2O5) is used as a catalyst in manufacturing sulfuric acid and maleic anhydride and in making ceramics. It is added to glass to produce green or blue tint. Glass coated with vanadium dioxide (VO2) can block infrared radiation at some specific temperature.

A new use has been found in Vanadium Redox Batteries (VRB), which are flow batteries designed to store large amounts of energy in a safe manner that can be adjusted to meet variable energy loads.

In the Environment [2]

  • Vanadium mainly enters the environment from natural sources and from the burning of fuel oils.
  • It does not dissolve well in water.
  • It combines with other elements and particles.
  • Vanadium binds strongly to soil and sediments.
  • Low levels have been found in plants, but it is not likely to build up in the tissues of animals.

Sources & Routes of Exposure

Sources of Exposure [2]

  • Eating foods containing vanadium, higher levels are found in seafoods. Vanadium is found in some nutritional supplements.
  • Breathing air near an industry that burns fuel oil or coal; these industries release vanadium oxide into the air.
  • Working in industries that process vanadium or make products containing vanadium.
  • Breathing contaminated air or drinking contaminated water near waste sites or landfills containing vanadium.
  • Breathing cigarette smoke.
  • Vanadium is not readily absorbed by the body from the stomach, gut, or contact with the skin.

Routes of Exposure [5]

  • Inhalation – Minor route of exposure for the general population. Predominant route of occupational exposure.
  • Ingestion – Predominant route of exposure for the general population through ingestion of contaminated food and water.
  • Dermal – Not expected to be a significant route of exposure to general or occupational populations.

Health Effects [2,3]

Vanadium compounds are not regarded as serious hazard, however, workers exposed to vanadium peroxide dust were found to suffer severe eye, nose and throat irritation. The uptake of vanadium by humans mainly takes place through foodstuffs, such as buckwheat, soya beans, olive oil, sunflower oil, apples and eggs. Vanadium can have a number of effects on human health, when the uptake is too high. When vanadium uptake takes places through air it can cause bronchitis and pneumonia. The acute effects of vanadium are irritation of lungs, throat, eyes and nasal cavities. Other health effects of vanadium uptake are:

  • Cardiac and vascular disease
  • Inflammation of stomach and intestines
  • Damage to the nervous system
  • Bleeding of livers and kidneys
  • Skin rashes
  • Severe trembling and paralyses
  • Nose bleeds and throat pains
  • Weakening
  • Sickness and headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Behavioural changes

The health hazards associated with exposure to vanadium are dependent on its oxidation state. Elemental vanadium could be oxidised to vanadium pentoxide during welding. The pentoxide form is more toxic than the elemental form. Chronic exposure to vanadium pentoxide dust and fumes may cause severe irritation of the eyes, skin, upper respiratory tract, persistent inflammations of the trachea and bronchi, pulmonary oedema, and systemic poisoning. Signs and symptoms of overexposure include; conjunctivitis, nasopharyngitis, cough, laboured breathing, rapid heartbeat, lung changes, chronic bronchitis, skin pallor, greenish-black tongue and an allergic skin rash

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified vanadium pentoxide as possibly carcinogenic to humans based on evidence of lung cancer in exposed mice. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and EPA have not classified vanadium as to its human carcinogenicity.

Safety [6]

First Aid Measures

  • Eye Contact: Check for and remove any contact lenses. In case of contact, immediately flush eyes with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes. Cold water may be used. Get medical attention.
  • Skin Contact: In case of contact, immediately flush skin with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes while removing contaminated clothing and shoes. Cover the irritated skin with an emollient. Cold water may be used. Wash clothing before reuse. Thoroughly clean shoes before reuse. Get medical attention immediately.
  • Serious Skin Contact: Wash with a disinfectant soap and cover the contaminated skin with an anti-bacterial cream. Seek immediate medical attention.
  • Inhalation: If inhaled, remove to fresh air. If not breathing, give artificial respiration. If breathing is difficult, give oxygen. Get medical attention immediately.
  • Serious Inhalation: Evacuate the victim to a safe area as soon as possible. Loosen tight clothing such as a collar, tie, belt or waistband. If breathing is difficult, administer oxygen. If the victim is not breathing, perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. WARNING: It may be hazardous to the person providing aid to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation when the inhaled material is toxic, infectious or corrosive. Seek immediate medical attention.
  • Ingestion: If swallowed, do not induce vomiting unless directed to do so by medical personnel. Never give anything by mouth to an unconscious person. Loosen tight clothing such as a collar, tie, belt or waistband. Get medical attention immediately.

Exposure Controls & Personal Protective Equipment

  • Engineering Controls

  • Use process enclosures, local exhaust ventilation, or other engineering controls to keep airborne levels below recommended exposure limits.

  • If user operations generate dust, fume or mist, use ventilation to keep exposure to airborne contaminants below the exposure limit.

Personal Protective Equipment

The following personal protective equipment is recommended when handling vanadium:

  • Splash goggles
  • Lab coat
  • Dust respirator (be sure to use an approved/certified respirator or equivalent)
  • Gloves

Personal Protective Equipment in Case of a Large Spill:

  • Splash goggles
  • Full suit
  • Dust respirator
  • Boots
  • Gloves
  • A self-contained breathing apparatus should be used to avoid inhalation of the product.
  • Suggested protective clothing might not be sufficient; consult a specialist BEFORE handling this product.


United States [7]




<b>HealthFactors and Target Organs</b>

OSHAPermissible Exposure Limit (PEL)




NationalInstitute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Recommended ExposureLimit (REL)

Note: The RELs are for ferrovanadium dust but also apply tovanadium metal.

1mg/m3 TWA

3mg/m3 STEL


Nose,throat, and respiratory irritation

AmericanConference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) Threshold LimitValue (TLV)








Australia [8]

Safe Work Australia has set a time weighted average concentration for vanadium of 0.05mg/m3 for a 40-hour workweek.