Nickel is a transition element extensively distributed in the environment, air, water, and soil. It may derive from natural sources and anthropogenic activity. Although nickel is ubiquitous in the environment, its functional role as a trace element for animals and human beings has not been yet recognized. Environmental pollution from nickel may be due to industry, the use of liquid and solid fuels, as well as municipal and industrial waste. Nickel contact can cause a variety of side effects on human health, such as allergy, cardiovascular and kidney diseases, lung fibrosis, lung and nasal cancer. Although the molecular mechanisms of nickel-induced toxicity are not yet clear, mitochondrial dysfunctions and oxidative stress are thought to have a primary and crucial role in the toxicity of this metal. Recently, researchers, trying to characterize the capability of nickel to induce cancer, have found out that epigenetic alterations induced by nickel exposure can perturb the genome. The purpose of this review is to describe the chemical features of nickel in human beings and the mechanisms of its toxicity. Furthermore, the attention is focused on strategies to remove nickel from the environment, such as phytoremediation and phytomining.
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