Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Dangerous Minerals

Coloradoite is a crystalline mineral originating in magma veins. The mineral is a mercury telluride compound formed when mercury fuses with tellurium, another extremely toxic and rare metal.

The combination of the two elements poses the risk of serious poisoning if carelessly handled. If heated or chemically altered, deadly vapor and dust is released. Interestingly, the mineral may be mined economically for its tellurium content. Tellurium minerals may combine with gold. The streets of Kalgoorie in Australia were mined in a bizarre gold rush after the realization that gold-bearing tellurides had been used to fill potholes.
Chalcanthite crystals are composed of copper, combined with sulfur and other elements and water. This arrangement turns copper into an extremely bio-available crystal. The copper becomes water soluble, and may be assimilated in great quantities by any plant or animal, rapidly weakening it and then killing it.
Hutchinsonite is a hazardous but dramatic mixture of thallium, lead and arsenic. The three poisonous metals form a lethal mineral cocktail.

Thallium is the dark twin of lead. This thick, greasy metal is similar in atomic mass but even more deadly. Thallium is a rare metal that appears in highly toxic compounds consisting of combinations of elements. The effects of thallium exposure include loss of hair, serious illness through skin contact and in many cases, death.
Galena is the principle ore of lead, and forms glistening silver cubes with almost unnaturally perfect shapes. Although lead is normally extremely flexible, the sulfur content of galena makes it extraordinarily brittle and reactive to chemical treatment. Galena may lead to lead dust exposure.

Once extracted, the lead content from this mineral poses environmental and health threats during treatment and extraction. Galena has a cubic fracture, and if hit with a hammer, the crystal will shatter into multiple smaller replicas of its original shape.
Asbestos is a fully natural category of minerals composed of silica, and the most abundant of Earth’s hard elements, iron, sodium and oxygen. Asbestos deposits consist of aggregates of thousands of tiny, fibrous crystals that can become airborne and lodged in the human lung. Carcinogenic effects occur through persistent irritation of the lung tissues, leading to scarring.
Arsenopyrite is arsenic iron sulfide, which is the same type of mineral as pyrite (fool’s gold, iron sulfide), but with a heavy addition of arsenic. If one attempts to heat or in any way alter the mineral, a strong garlic odor of arsenic will be produced as lethally toxic, corrosive and carcinogenic vapors are released. Just handling the mineral brings one into contact with unstable sulfuric arsenic salts.
Torbernite crystals form as secondary deposits in granitic rocks, and are composed of uranium. Formed through a complex reaction between phosphorous, copper, water and uranium, the crystal releases lethal radon gas.

The bright green crystal blooms were used by prospectors as indicators of uranium deposits.