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Posted by cascaillou
Rock Currier March 13, 2014 01:37AMIv'e been trying to think of what water soluble lithium minerals or those soluble in weekly acidic conditions like our stomach and GI tract that you might find in enough abundance to give you a reaction other than indigestion if you ate them. Can anyone suggest any?
Crystals not pistols.
cascaillou March 13, 2014 10:13AMRock Currier, that's exactly what my writing was about: I checked every lithium minerals and in regard of solubility, lithium content, and absence of associated toxic elements, the only decent candidates are zabuyelite, lithiophosphate and nalipoite; in that order.
However, zabuyelite is lithium carbonate which is precisely the compound that is used in psychiatry but as a mineral it is very rare and microscopic, and the lithium content of nalipoite is a bit low, so we're left with lithiophosphate (it's kind of a rare mineral but it has decent solubility, decent lithium content, no associated toxic elements, and can reach 5cm in size, typically as cleavages)
On the other hand, there's no directly bioavailable lithium mineral occuring in industrial quantities that I'm aware of, thus lithium is extracted from other lithium ores or concentrated from lithium rich waters.
But I insist, lithium is dangerous, and one should definately not self-medicate with lithium.
Edited 15 time(s). Last edit at 03/13/2014 04:41PM by el cascaillou.
Rolf Luetcke March 13, 2014 02:02PMWanted to add a little story from my and my wife's past. Her folks worked in Mercury extraction in Arkansas and as kids they played with the liquid mercury often, rolling it around to see what it did, in hands and more. I remember doing the same thing when I was younger.
Not long ago a child in a Tucson school had dropped an old mercury thermometer and the school was evacuated and a whole team came in with haz-mat gear on to remove the mercury. I think it was a "bit" excessive!! We are both in our mid 60's and seem not to have any adverse effects from our playing with the mercury as kids.
Loved all the comments with this thread and followed it with interest and agree with Alfredo on his comments.
I used to work with ores of Arsenic when making mineral collections and was a bit worried about smelling like garlic for hours after breaking up the orpiment and realgar but after I found out the facts was not so worried.
cascaillou March 13, 2014 05:36PMwell your story about metallic mercury and arsenic sulfides sounds perfectly consistent with the toxicity data I shared previously. These are indeed much less hazardous than montroydite or arsenolite for instance. That's why I felt it was important to give examples, so to show that for a same toxic element, the toxicity can vary a lot depending on the mineral. Anyway, I didn't meant this writing as much as a warning than as a discussion about minerals from a different perspective that is pharmacology.
Edited 8 time(s). Last edit at 03/13/2014 07:46PM by el cascaillou.
Rock Currier March 13, 2014 08:50PMIt is the lawyers and the insurance companies that have combined to scare people and the government into doing unreasonable things. There is often no test for reasonability applied to situations. The result are situations like the broken thermometer calling out a haz mat squad. It has found its way into laws as well and in local state and federal regulations and how the people assigned to enforce them choose to do so.
So a kid is expelled from school for bringing a knife to school. The knife was a tiny blunt plastic thing included in a prepackaged crackers and cheese spread kit that his mother had put in his lunch bag. The matter was not resolved till an irate parent took a sharp "lead" pencil off the principals desk and telling him that she could probably kill him with it but that not with the knife in the crackers and cheese lunch item. Plans are developed to build strong high chain link fences around parts of a counties where wind blow asbestos fibers around naturally. This has happened perhaps has been happening during recent geological time and no one living in the area has seemed to have suffered ill effects. Someone finally looks at the money involved and said is this really a problem we need to solve?
So: How important and necessary are health warnings for mineral specimens? Often people do not make the distinction between the large quantities of a mineral and long term exposure to them and mineral specimens. Do we want to be responsible for creating a haz mat squad call out because someone brings a specimen of orpiment or autunite into a class room and drops it on the floor? No one has ever been made ill or their health degraded by their mineral collection(s). Vastly more harm has resulted by accidents driving around in pursuit of our hobby and by collecting accidents than the minerals themselves.
Any health warnings that we put of our mineral species pages should probably be headed with "Handling specimens of this minerals will not harm you or be a hazard to your health any more than handling food in you kitchen, going to the bathroom, working in the garden or on your car. General sanitation rules apply. Wash your hands when you are finished with any of these activities." For a few minerals like some asbestos group minerals, radioactive minerals, some arsenic and mercury minerals we may want to include some additional text about how contact with quantities of these minerals or dust from them might in the long term be dangerous to health and site examples. If the Merk Index lists an LD 50 for the mineral, then of course we should list that. If there are not know examples of how exposure to this mineral has harmed people then that should also be stated. We must try and put things in perspective and in a way that people can read about them and get scared and call out the haz mat squad.
Crystals not pistols.
cascaillou March 13, 2014 09:58PMThe thermometer story is indeed completely ridiculous, and my writtings are clearly pointing to that. Mentionning LD50 values is mainly a matter of allowing one to compare the relative toxicity of different minerals (one to another), indeed numerical values are the scientific way to put things into perspective.
For instance, from reading the values, we can't see that calomel shows some toxicity, but the important thing is to note that it is 11x less toxic than montroydite, so we can reasonably decide that the moderate toxicity of calomel isn't worth mentioning in the mindat mineral pages (I can't see anyway for a collector to accidentally ingest a toxic quantity of this mineral!)
That's precisely what the lawyers and insurance companies are not allowing themselves to: some perspective.
ps: I named this topic 'health warning' because that's how mindat puts it in mineral pages, but I realize that might sound like terrorism, so I changed the title so to make it clear that this topic is nothing but a study about minerals under a pharmacological perspective. I also edited my original post to make it clear that "this topic is not intended to be alarmist, simply I think that the biological effects of minerals (toxicity, medicinal, nutritive...) is an interesting topic to discuss: when mineralogy meets biology". That's probably better that way.
Edited 7 time(s). Last edit at 03/13/2014 10:36PM by el cascaillou.
Rolf Luetcke March 13, 2014 10:59PMAs a number have mentioned in this thread, common sense seems to have taken a back seat in todays time of protecting people from themselves.
Last example was a teacher that came into my old store and said she loved the way the mineral Chrysotile looked in its natural state and she wanted to take some of the "asbestos" in its natural state into the classroom to use as a teaching tool but the school regulations forbade bringing many things into a classroom and asbestos was on the list. (don't think thermometers were on the list)
I told her to use the mineral name and nobody would be the wiser as long as she stressed the mineral is not particularly dangerous in its natural state but rubbing the fibers loose is what causes problems. She was aware of this and I said that it may be a way around the "list" problem to use the chrysotile name.
Yes, there are a number of toxic minerals and common sense needs to be used when working with any of them.
One story I remember well from Bisbee was a miner bringing home a great Chalcanthite stalactite he had found in the mine and set it on the living room table. Their little child came in the room when the parents had left and found the pretty colored object and I am sure you know where this story went. Sorry to say a tragedy happened here but the miner didn't know of the toxic nature of the Chalcanthite. It may be well known to adults but to a child it was something to put into its mouth.
It is good to familiarize oneself with the potential dangers but we need to do it as individuals and not with regulation.
cascaillou March 14, 2014 10:21AMImho, the toxicity of a given mineral must be mentioned if oral LD50 in rat/mouse is less than 50mg/kg, and might possibly also be worth mentioning if it is between 50 and 100mg/kg
However I don't see the point in mentioning toxicity of minerals between 100 and 300mg/kg, unless water soluble (but that's just being extra-cautious, thinking of the kids that can be hungry enough to eat such a quantity of the fool tasting chalcanthite to end up in the hospital...)
Edited 14 time(s). Last edit at 06/13/2014 05:12PM by cascaillou.
Rock Currier March 15, 2014 08:18AMAny one know where I can get a 100 gram crystal of montooidite to chew on? I find it hard to believe that a child would poison itself on chalcanthite. Did you ever lick a piece of that stuff? You would end up trying to spit the taste out for about ten minuites.
Crystals not pistols.
cascaillou March 15, 2014 03:30PM
Yeah, that was precisely my point, the kid would have to be very very hungry (to get real sick, one would need to ingest a substantial amount of this fool tasting mineral, which I think is unlikely to happen)
Actually, a 5mm sized cube of montroydite would be enough to kill you, and you could get real sick from less than that.
Which was also my point: we can't consider every toxic minerals on the same scale, some are a world apart in term of toxicity.
For instance the ld50 in rat of montroydite is about 16 times lesser than for chalcanthite (please note that in phamacology, a 2x increase in dosage can already be significant, so a 16x factor is a really huge difference! Just think about the difference between 1 aspirin tab and 16 aspirin tabs...)
Edited 18 time(s). Last edit at 03/15/2014 05:45PM by el cascaillou.
Adam Kelly March 16, 2014 04:09PMPlease forgive me if I missed a similar point brought up earlier.
If we are going to label these minerals as toxic, we should include "Happy Meals" on the danger list.
For that matter, you could die from drinking too much water.
I think there are far more dangerous things used in most of our daily lives.
Just my two cents, but be careful you don't get copper toxicity.
cascaillou March 16, 2014 10:49PM
that's also my opinion, but I think that when something is significantly toxic, the information should simply be made accessible to the people interested in it.
Considering that each Mindat mineral page does already feature a "health warning" column, I don't understand why one would want it to be left blank when there is some available data to be filled in.
Also, I don't look at toxicity data only in a safety perspective: I also consider it as a scientifically interesting property that is inherent to a given mineral.
Edited 9 time(s). Last edit at 03/16/2014 11:19PM by el cascaillou.
Alfredo Petrov March 16, 2014 11:14PMI have no objection at all to this info being uploaded to the Mindat "health warnings" box, and I congratulate you for your efforts in pulling the information together in quantifiable form, but with the strong proviso that each case be put into context so that the average non-pharmacologically trained collector will clearly understand when they read the "warning" on Mindat that he/she isn't going to get sick merely from keeping said mineral in their home or picking it up. Given the propensity to undue panic that is unfortunately proliferating among the scientifically ignorant public, I would strenuously object to Mindat becoming just one more fear-mongering site, of which there are plenty already. Context, important.
Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 03/16/2014 11:15PM by Alfredo Petrov.
cascaillou March 16, 2014 11:19PMyou made a point, some people might possibly misread the data. Thus it should be specified "if swallowed".
As a rock nerd, I admit that I'd love to build a small pharmacological themed collection, but it's hard to get your hands on such minerals in an attractive form (most specimens I've found for sale were either microscopic crystals or shapeless veins in matrix)
Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 03/17/2014 01:06PM by el cascaillou.
SophiaJoy MB March 17, 2014 01:49PMI have never tried to have toxic minerals but is there any possibility my stones have some of uranium or any other hazardous minerals inside of them where I can't see?? I don't have any unusual stones but for example, I have lots of tumbled "Jasper". I received those unidentified so-called Jasper from my friend and she doesn't know exactly what they are. She doesn't know exactly what they are, so she calls them Jasper...
Could normal tumbled stones have toxic minerals in them??
Alfredo Petrov March 17, 2014 03:07PMSophiaJoy, regarding your tumbled stones, were you by any chance planning on crushing them and eating them? :-S ...If not, it might be more worthwhile to worry about the toxicity of the sodium chloride in your chips, or the nitrites in your sausage and spinach.
A completely different topic is the dangers faced by the lapidary workers who actually manufacture your tumbled stones... Lots of sludge which would turn into fine dust if it dried out. And fine dusts (of all kinds, not just minerals), can indeed have deleterious effects on the human body. I'm quite terrified of vacuum cleaner dust myself. I consider vacuum cleaner dust an excellent reason to have moppable floors and not carpets or tatami. But that should be more a topic for the lapidary messageboard on Mindat, or Gemdat, and is of little concern to mineral collectors.
cascaillou March 18, 2014 12:08AMRadioactive minerals are a special case, for radioactive minerals safety guidelines, please refer to my initial post (first page of the topic).
Being unknowingly supplied with a significant quantity of radioactive rocks sounds unlikely, though. But why not just get your rocks identified...that would make more sense that applying safety measures against harmless pieces of rock.
Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 03/18/2014 12:38AM by el cascaillou.
cascaillou May 08, 2014 12:33PMPrecisely, those safety precautions only adress issues such as ingestion and inhalation, which makes clear that simply owning and handling the mineral isn't a concern. Moreover, these apply mostly to rare species that beginners will not even hear of.
I was actually very reluctant to formulate any precautions for minerals such as orpiment, chalcanthite and especially cinnabar which are not much of a concern, but I still choosed to include these only because they are commonly encountered by beginners who often ask about their toxicity (precisely to show that unless eating or breathing these, they would be prefectly safe).
note: despite there have been a few cases of kid poisoning themselves with chalcanthite specimens, this is less likely to happen than kids poisoning themselves with household chemicals or pharmaceuticals, and let's also add that those synthetic chalcanthite crystals are much less toxic than those synthetic lopezite crystals.
PS: as I had discussed earlier, I might have missed a few significantly toxic minerals that might also deserve a warning (maybe amongst arsenites and arsenates, tellurites and tellurates) due to lack of any toxicological data available. However I thought it would be wiser not to make any warning for these without any solid proof of toxicity (as we want to avoid uselessly worrying people).
Edited 17 time(s). Last edit at 05/14/2014 06:42PM by cascaillou.
Alfredo Petrov May 08, 2014 03:56PMI'm not particularly fond of the expression "Contains copper.", or other element, as this is not necessarily relevant. Chalcanthite and Paraiba tourmaline both "contain copper", but only one of them is toxic. Table salt "contains chlorine", a toxic element, but that is not the main danger of halite. So we need more explanation than just "Contains element X", which could wrongly lead people to assume that any mineral containing that element must per se be dangerous. How about something like "Contains element X in water-soluble form", or "bioavailable" or something like that?
Reiner Mielke May 08, 2014 04:14PMI agree with Alfredo in most cases what it contains is irrelevant and only needs to be mentioned if that element is available to the body to create a problem. Furthermore the amount that can create a problem needs to be mentioned, if taken in small amounts many elements are beneficial, for example copper and selenium. On the other hand if taken in large enough amounts everything can kill you.
cascaillou May 08, 2014 04:41PMAlfredo, you're right 'contains copper' may be misleading, on the other hand different toxic elements have different pharmacokinetics, which makes mention of the involved element relevant information. I would agree with you on reformulating it as "Contains X in bioavailable form" (this is a somewhat specific pharmacological terminology but still I think everybody would roughly understand its meaning).
However, there would be exceptions:
-uranium and thorium are always radioactive (no matter the form). Thus, for those, let's put it as "Contains significant quantity of uranium and/or thorium"
-cinnabar is insoluble and has very low bioavailablility (so that only chronic inhalation might be a cause of concern). Then, let's just make an exception for that mineral by not mentioning the element at all.
Does that sound about right?
Edited 5 time(s). Last edit at 05/08/2014 05:03PM by cascaillou.
cascaillou May 08, 2014 05:09PMok, I just edited my safety precautions list in consequence.
Reiner Mielke, when you look at the label or msds of a chemical compound, you will immediately come through classification through hazard codes and hazard pictograms. Those codes and pictograms are already taking into consideration what the toxic doses are, for instance, skull&crossbones means 'toxic' or 'highly toxic', which basically means that the toxic dose is quite small. The classification has already been established by toxicologists for you, precisely so that when you want to know how "bad" a chemical is, you won't need to look into all the toxicological data they used to build their classification (and anyway such detailed data would be counterproductive by making the average user confused).
I kept this idea in mind when building my list of safety precautions.
Edited 7 time(s). Last edit at 05/08/2014 05:31PM by cascaillou.
Alfredo Petrov May 08, 2014 05:34PMFor the majority of mineral species on the list, we could add a sentence at the end of each warning: "Total number of mineral collectors hurt so far by this mineral: Zero." ...and that would put it into perspective.
For some of those species (downeyite, for example), we could add the sentence: "Total quantity of this species available in all mineral collections on the planet combined does not add up to one lethal dose."
Putting things into perspective is important, or else the scientifically illiterate (who seem to be the majority of the population these days, plus a big fraction of government bureaucrats) go into panic mode unnecessarily.
cascaillou May 08, 2014 05:49PMMost people would be under the impression that no one ever got hurt from let's say nutmeg, but if you would go through very specialized documentation about plant poisoning case reports (which is hard to get your hands on), then you will be surprised to learn that this is not unkown of, not even uncommon. You cannot assume that a given chemical never hurted anyone simply because you're not aware of poisoning cases, and anyway a toxic stays a toxic, no matter whether or not they are case reports of poisoning to be found.
For instance, Rock Currier was under the impression that no one had ever been hurted by mineral specimens, but I know of at least two cases of poisoning from chalcanthite samples (two cases which might as well have been left unreported, or which could have been reported without me ever hearing of it)
As to the minerals I mentioned to be toxic or highly toxic, most are indeed very rare and beginers will probably never hear of these, thus there shouldn't be any panic.
Edited 5 time(s). Last edit at 05/08/2014 06:06PM by cascaillou.
Alfredo Petrov May 08, 2014 06:16PMThe "chalcanthite" poisoning cases were really the mineral chalcanthite, or artificial copper sulphate crystals? I suspect the latter, because the artificial crystals are far more abundant, and far more attractive to small children, than the mineral chalcanthite. Applying mineral names to synthetic compounds is misleading.
Doug Daniels May 08, 2014 06:39PMI agree with Alfredo regarding the "scientifically illiterate" (specifically here in the US of A); even with a general explanation of what is being explained, they won't read it for what it is and will go off the deep end. I would hate to see our collections come under EPA regulation...you think labelling your specimens is difficult now, just let them get into the picture.
Roger Lang May 08, 2014 07:56PMDunno if this has been posted on the pages before but the major toxic mineral related stuff is C2H5OH in the beer(s) after rock hounding and cleaning whatever minerals ;-) ... several serious intoxications experienced (and the collected cinnabar did NOT affect my health) :)-D ... long time exposure not investigated yet .....
Mark Heintzelman June 02, 2014 02:00AMcascaillou,
I like the list thus far, and thank you for this effort, much appreciated. I would also like to see Brucite var. nemalite included on the asbestos mineral list. The fibrous form of brucite has a particularly high Fe2+ component, so it had been evaluated for it's capacity to induce lipid peroxidation and to activate intra-cellular anti-oxidant enzymes. The results of the study at the Laboratoire de Cytophysiologie et Toxicologie Cellulaire, Universitë de Paris, France, showed that nemalite has a strong oxidizing power as well, inducing an oxidative stress on airway epithelial cells. It is one of the nastier asbestiform minerals and definitely ought to be included.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/02/2014 02:16AM by Mark Heintzelman.
cascaillou June 02, 2014 01:54PMThanks for sharing, could you please point me to a few links about nemalite toxicity?
ps: for the record, lately a collector reported a possible case of cobaltomenite poisoning (with severe gastrointestinal disorders), but confirmation is needed (ie. was the mineral correctly identified? was the illness actually related to selenium poisoning?)
Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 06/02/2014 02:10PM by cascaillou.
Mark Heintzelman June 02, 2014 03:08PMCascaillou,
Here is a link to the publication in pdf form: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1519846/pdf/envhper00375-0078.pdf
This compatative study also covers Chrysotile (Fe2+) and Hematite (Fe3+). Fe3+ seems to have no ill effect.
cascaillou June 02, 2014 04:50PMThank you. Added nemalite to the list.
Let's note that asides from the currently regulated asbestos minerals (Chrysotile, Anthophyllite, Tremolite, Actinolite, Amosite, and Crocidolite), there are indeed a few other minerals which are known or suspected to cause mesothelioma from prolonged exposure to fibers via inhalation:
I know that erionite is a very nasty one. But for the others, I just don't know how bad they are, comparatively to the regulated asbestos minerals.
Edited 10 time(s). Last edit at 06/02/2014 06:26PM by cascaillou.
cascaillou June 03, 2014 01:11AMhere's a study about palygorskite and sepiolite: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2961365
One other thing I'd like to discuss is radian barite. Webmineral gives an estimation of its radioactivity at 44452.81 mRem/h for a 100g sample if hold in the hand for one hour. I don't know how they got the value (unfortunately I didn't find any contact email to ask?), but if that's correct, this sounds like extremely radioactive! (for comparison a 100g uraninite is estimated at 197.60mRem/h). So, I was thinking that maybe my formulation of safety precautions for this mineral (see page 6 of this topic) might not be severe enough: does that mRem/h value sound coherent? then should we mention that such mineral should be stored inside a lead box? that anti-radiation gloves are recommened for manipulation? that surfaces must be cleaned-up after manipulation? Or would that be excessive?
Indeed, I have limited knowledge of radiotoxicity, so maybe someone more knowledgeable than me might chime in.
Edited 7 time(s). Last edit at 06/03/2014 05:22PM by cascaillou.
cascaillou June 03, 2014 02:00AMwell I'm not really worried about what are my chances of accidentally coming through a specimen of radian barite, my question is about what if a collector would willingly invest in a rare specimen of radian barite (that's indeed a fascinating specie, as the only Ra bearing mineral), then what safety precautions should he observe? In that perspective, I'm trying to figure out what precautions should be considered as required, in contrast with precautions which would be regarded as unnecessary thus excessive.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/03/2014 02:02AM by cascaillou.
Alfredo Petrov June 03, 2014 03:22AMNote that all barite is similarly radioactive when first deposited! Why? Because the chemical similarity between Ra and Ba is such that any minute traces of radium in the environment get swept up and deposited in the crystalizing barite. We don't observe this most of the time because our collectible barites are millions of years old and have already passed so many Ra half lives that the Ra is essentially gone. But if you have a freshly grown natural barite from one of the few places on Earth where barite can be observed currently growing, then it will be quite radioactive, but only for a few decades.
For the same reason, brazil nuts are among the most radioactive foods - The nut concentrates Ba from the Amazonian soils and any tiny traces of Ra get concentrated along with the Ba.
It would be interesting to check other recently growing primary Ba minerals for radioactivity - harmotome from geothermal wells, anyone?
Nelse Miller June 03, 2014 12:46PMMy first thought when the subject of radian barite came up is that the scientists who first isolated radium from uranium ores were able to coprecipitate the radium from the dissolved ore with barium, which behaves chemically like radium. The barium was precipitated as the sulfate, barite. With each dissolution and reprecipitation step, the concentration of radium would increase. Could some of these intermediary precipitates be what was described as radian barite?
cascaillou June 03, 2014 02:53PM
Note that all barite is similarly radioactive when first deposited
I don't understand. I mean wouldn't it depend on how much Ra is available in the envrionnement to be drained by the growth fluid? Shouldn't we expect the initial radium impurity content of a barite to be much higher if the barite is growing in an uranium rich field. No?
Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 06/03/2014 03:02PM by cascaillou.
Alfredo Petrov June 03, 2014 03:02PMNot really. There are tiny traces of radium everywhere in hydrothermal environments, and that seems to be enough for "radian barite" to form. The so-called "radian barites" from their most famous localities (in Taiwan and Japan) are from hot spring resorts, not particularly uranium-rich localities.
I'm sure you're right that barite forming in a uranium deposit would be more highly radioactive, but I'm just not aware of any barites currently growing in uranium deposits. Remember that the most necessary criterion is that they must be very young - a few decades old at most - which is almost no age at all on the geologic timescale. I tested a radian barite ("hokutolite") from an old collection, maybe 90 or 100 years old, and the radioactivity was negligible.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/03/2014 03:44PM by Alfredo Petrov.
cascaillou June 03, 2014 06:18PMhere's another one I've been wondering about for long: muromontite...is that for real?
see discussion here: http://theodoregray.com/periodictable/Elements/094/index.html
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