Current Environmental Health Reports

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 405–415 | Cite as

Tungsten: an Emerging Toxicant, Alone or in Combination

  • Alicia M. Bolt
  • Koren K. MannEmail author
Metals and Health (A Barchowsky, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Metals and Health


Purpose of review

Tungsten is an emerging environmental toxicant, yet our understanding of the potential risks of exposure on human health is still limited.

Recent findings

In this review, we will discuss populations most at risk of exposure to high concentrations of tungsten. In addition, we will highlight what is known about the toxicity profile of tungsten compounds, based on epidemiological, in vitro, and in vivo studies, focusing on bone, immune, pulmonary, and cancer outcomes. Of note, emerging evidence indicates that tungsten can augment the effects of other stimulants, stressors, and toxicants. Of particular importance may be tungsten-cobalt mixtures that seem to be more toxic than either metal alone. This is important because it means that we cannot just evaluate the toxicity of tungsten in isolation. Finally, we still have limited information of how many of the in vitro and in vivo findings translate to human populations, so it will be important to conduct epidemiology studies in highly exposed populations to adequately address the potential risks of tungsten exposure on human health.


Together, we discuss recent findings that support further investigation into the toxicities of tungsten alone and in combination with other metals.


Tungsten Tungsten carbide Cobalt Metals Toxicity 



This work is supported by grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research MOP-137149 and MOP-142227 and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada RGPIN-2015-04919.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research, Department of OncologyMcGill UniversityMontréalCanada

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