J Toxicol Clin Toxicol. 1999;37(2):265-78. doi: 10.1081/clt-100102425.


Vanadium is a steel-grey, corrosion-resistant metal, which exists in oxidation states ranging from -1 to +5. Metallic vanadium does not occur in nature, and the most common valence states are +3, +4, and +5. The pentavalent form (VO3-) predominates in extracellular body fluids whereas the quadrivalent form (VO+2) is the most common intracellular form. Because of its hardness and its ability to form alloys, vanadium (i.e., ferrovanadium) is a common component of hard steel alloys used in machines and tools. Although most foods contain low concentrations of vanadium (< 1 ng/g), food is the major source of exposure to vanadium for the general population. High air concentrations of vanadium occur in the occupation setting during boiler-cleaning operations as a result of the presence of vanadium oxides in the dust. The lungs absorb soluble vanadium compounds (V2O5) well, but the absorption of vanadium salts from the gastrointestinal tract is poor. The excretion of vanadium by the kidneys is rapid with a biological half-life of 20-40 hours in the urine. Vanadium is probably an essential trace element, but a vanadium-deficiency disease has not been identified in humans. The estimated daily intake of the US population ranges from 10-60 micrograms V. Vanadyl sulfate is a common supplement used to enhance weight training in athletes at doses up to 60 mg/d. In vitro and animal studies indicate that vanadate and other vanadium compounds increase glucose transport activity and improve glucose metabolism. In general, the toxicity of vanadium compounds is low. Pentavalent compounds are the most toxic and the toxicity of vanadium compounds usually increases as the valence increases. Most of the toxic effects of vanadium compounds result from local irritation of the eyes and upper respiratory tract rather than systemic toxicity. The only clearly documented effect of exposure to vanadium dust is upper respiratory tract irritation characterized by rhinitis, wheezing, nasal hemorrhage, conjunctivitis, cough, sore throat, and chest pain. Case studies have described the onset of asthma after heavy exposure to vanadium compounds, but clinical studies to date have not detected an increased prevalence of asthma in workers exposed to vanadium.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Environmental Pollutants / pharmacokinetics
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Organometallic Compounds / chemistry
  • Organometallic Compounds / pharmacokinetics
  • Organometallic Compounds / toxicity
  • Vanadium / chemistry
  • Vanadium / pharmacokinetics
  • Vanadium / toxicity*


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Organometallic Compounds
  • Vanadium