Posted October 25th 2016

Not long ago we looked at what metals are considered ‘healthy’ and can be beneficial to us. This time we are going to look at metals that can be ‘unhealthy’ or harmful to us if we are exposed to them in the wrong way. Many of these are well known, and of course can still be used as long as they are handled with the proper care and attention. If you regularly come into contact with these metals, or work with them, it is incredibly important to make sure you adhere to any safety guidelines.


Lead may have a negative effect on human health in any measurable form, which means it should always be handled with the utmost care. If ingested or inhaled in any amount it can be poisonous and causes damage to the nervous system. Lead is still used in building construction, as well as lead-acid batteries, solders and bullets. If working with lead, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has recommended an exposure limit of 0.050 mg/m3 over an 8-hour workday.


Iron is essential to our health, however, an excess of iron intake can be detrimental to us. Iron poisoning can occur although it is mainly associated with young children who have consumed large quantities or iron pills inadvertently. It is important for iron pills, generally taken by pregnant women, to be kept out of reach of small children.


Lithium is often used in medical treatment, specifically to treat bi-polar disorder. In high doses lithium can be toxic and it is important for medical practitioners to carefully monitor patient’s dosage for this reason.


Manganese is a nother metal that has become an active issue in workplace safety. Chronic exposure can lead to negative psychiatric effects and motor disturbances with the symptoms being similar to Lou Gehrig’s disease and multiple sclerosis. There have been several product liability lawsuits against manufacturers of arc welding supplies for manganese poisoning.


Mercury is used worldwide in things such as thermometers, barometers, fluorescent lamps and float valves. Concerns about the toxicity of the element have led to mercury thermometers being largely phased out in favour of alcohol or galinstan instead though. Mercury poisoning can occur through inhalation or ingestion and can affect the brain, kidneys and lungs. The export of mercury from the European Union has been prohibited since March 2010 in an effort to limit the use of mercury for health reasons.




Posted October 15th 2016

Cloud Gate, Chicago

One of the most iconic structures of Chicago, Cloud Gate is a public sculpture created by artist Anish Kapoor. It can be found in Millenium Park, at the centre of the AT&T Plaza and is fondly nicknamed ‘The Bean’ due to its shape. Made of 168 stainless steel plates that have been welded together, the surface of the structure shows no visible seams in a tribute to the inspiration for the design – liquid mercury. Visitors can walk around and under the sculpture, which reflects the surrounding scenery of Chicago, distorting the skyline and warping reflections. The lower 6 feet of ‘The Bean’ are wiped down twice a day, and the entire thing is cleaned twice a year.

Charging Bull, New York City

Sometimes referred to as the ‘Wall Street Bull’ or ‘Bowling Green Bull’, the Charging Bull is a bronze structure that can be found in the financial district of Manhattan, New York City. Due to its appearance in films, including Hitch, Arthur and The Wolf of Wall Street, the bull is instantly recognised by many as an icon of the city, and Wall Street in particular. It is one of the city’s most photographed artworks and draws tourists to the financial district year round. Originally installed as an act of ‘guerrilla art’, the bull was intended as a symbol of strength following the 1987 stock market crash.

Jerusalem Upside Down, Jerusalem

Shaped like an hourglass, Jerusalem Upside Down is a sculpture found at the highest point of The Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Its reflective surface flips the city of Jerusalem into the sky, signifying the spiritual importance of the city. Another creation of Anish Kapoor, the sculpture is immediately recognisable as the work of the artist, providing a distorted reflection of reality.

Unisphere, New York City

Another structure that is instantly recognisable after featuring heavily in popular culture, the Unisphere is located in Flushing Meadows – Corona Park, in the borough of Queens, New York City. It is 140 feet high, weighing in at 320,000kg, and is the worlds largest global structure. It was conceived and constructed as the symbol of the 1964-1965 New York’s World Fair, in homage to the theme of ‘Peace Through Understanding’. In 1993 a complete restoration of the structure began, finishing in May 1994. This included numerous repairs as well as an intensive cleaning of years’ worth of grime from the steel. On the 10th May 195, the Unisphere was given official landmark status by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.




Posted October 7th 2016

Nickel chrome alloys, or Nichrome as they are commonly known, are alloys that contain nickel, chromium and sometimes iron. The chemical formula is NiCr, or sometimes NiFeCr if iron is included.


Nichrome alloys are usually composed of 80% nickel and 20% chromium (Nichrome 80/20), although other compositions can be found in different ratios. Nichrome is characterised by a silver-grey colour and has a high resistance to electrical flow and heat. It is also very resistant to corrosion and wear, is very durable and has a very high melting point at around 1,400oC.


Its resistance to oxidation make nichrome a popular material for use in heating elements. For example, the heating elements in a household toaster are most commonly made of thick nichrome wire. When used in this way the nichrome is typically wound in coils to a certain electrical resistance before a current is passed through to produce the heat that is emitted. When nichrome is heated to high temperatures it develops an outer layer of chromium oxide, unlike other metals which may begin to oxidise when heated in air. This means it is mostly impervious to oxygen and the heating element is therefore protected from oxidation.


Another popular use of nichrome is in fireworks and explosives as an electrical ignition. When current flows through it, the nichrome glows red hot and heats up extremely quickly even with a small voltage. This makes it an excellent choice for igniting fireworks and other pyrotechnics as it can be activated from a safe distance at the push of a button.


As nichrome is very wear resistant it is also a popular for creating hard wearing coatings both for decorative and engineering purposes. Nickel chrome alloys are commonly used in aircraft engine turbines, for example, due to their durability, resistance to heat and general toughness.


William Rowland is one of the world’s leading suppliers of nickel products, including high purity nickel and nickel powders. We supply nickel chromium in both lumps and powder form, of various sizes.


Nickel Chrome Alloys