Copper fume (as Cu)

May 1994
Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health Concentrations (IDLH)

CAS number: 1317–38–0 (CuO)

NIOSH REL: 0.1 mg/m3 TWA

Current OSHA PEL: 0.1 mg/m3 TWA

1989 OSHA PEL: Same as current PEL

1993-1994 ACGIH TLV: 0.2 mg/m3 TWA

Description of Substance: Finely divided black particulate dispersed in air.

LEL: . . Noncombustible Solids

Original (SCP) IDLH*: No Evidence [*Note: “Effective” IDLH = 200 mg Cu/m3 — see discussion below.]

Basis for original (SCP) IDLH: There is no evidence that an acute exposure to a high concentration of copper fume could impede escape within 30 minutes. Browning [1969] noted that there is little evidence that copper presents a serious industrial hazard, either from acute or chronic poisoning. For this draft technical standard, therefore, respirators have been selected on the basis of the assigned protection factor afforded by each device up to 2,000 × the OSHA PEL of 0.1 mg Cu/m3 (i.e., 200 mg Cu/m3); only the “most protective” respirators are permitted for use in concentrations exceeding 200 mg Cu/m3.

Short-term exposure guidelines: None developed


Animal data: None relevant for use in determining the revised IDLH.

Human data: Exposure to copper fume causes upper respiratory tract irritation, metallic taste, nausea, and metal fume fever. It has been reported that no ill effects resulted from exposures to copper fumes at concentrations up to 0.4 mg Cu/m3 [Luxon 1972] and that there is little evidence that copper presents a serious industrial hazard, either from acute of chronic poisoning [Browning 1969].

Revised IDLH: 100 mg Cu/m3

Basis for revised IDLH: The revised IDLH for copper fume is 100 mg Cu/m3 based on an analogy to copper dusts and mists which have a revised IDLH of 100 mg Cu/m3. This may be a conservative value due to the lack of relevant acute toxicity data for workers exposed to concentrations above 100 mg Cu/m3.



1. Browning E [1969]. Toxicity of industrial metals. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Appleton-Century-Crofts, p. 148.

2. Luxon SG [1972]. Letter to ACGIH TLV Committee. London, England: H.M. Factory Inspectorate, Industrial Hygiene Unit, August 1, 1972.

Page last reviewed: December 4, 2014