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Proved in 1965-66 by Panos, Rogers and Stephenson, on 16 persons [7 men, 9 women].
Description of the substance
Thallium was discovered spectroscopically by Sir William Crookes, an English chemist, in 1861. Crooks had obtained the sludge left over from the production of sulfuric acid (H2SO4) from a friend. After removing all of the selenium from the sludge, he inspected it with a device known as a spectroscope to look for signs of tellurium. Rather than seeing the yellow spectral lines produced by tellurium, he observed a bright green line that no one had ever seen before. He named the new element that was producing the green line thallium, after the greek word for 'green twig', thallos. He isolated samples of thallium the next year.
Thallium is a soft, silvery metal, but it soon develops a bluish-grey tinge as the oxide forms if it is exposed to the air.
Thallium is found in the minerals crooksite (CuThSe), lorandite (TlAsS2) and hutchinsonite ((Pb, Tl)2As5S9). Thallium is found in several ores, one of which is pyrites, used in the production of sulfuric acid. The commercial source of thallium is as a by-product of pyrites roasting in sulfuric acid production. It can also be obtained from the smelting of lead and zinc ores. Thallium is also present in manganese nodules found on the ocean floor.
There are no uses for metallic thallium since pure thallium quickly combines with oxygen and water vapor from the atmosphere, forming a black, powdery substance.
Thallium is a heavy metal which has no known biological function, and is highly toxic to humans. Salts of the metal are colourless, water-soluble and tasteless, so often pass unnoticed. They are extremely poisonous, and ingestion of more than 10-15mg per kg of body weight can be lethal. Thallium poisonings are generally due to ingestion of the salts, but cases of inhalation of dusts or fumes from smelting, skin absorption and even from sniffing contaminated cocaine have been reported 1.
Thallium is found in trace amounts in the earth’s crust and in the earth’s atmosphere due to man’s activities. Environmental contamination may also occur, and local people may then be affected by consuming vegetables which have been grown in the contaminated soil, through the water supply or by breathing it in through the air. Thallium is bio-accumulative, passing up through food chains, and may accumulate in fish and shellfish, as well as in plants and animals 13.
Thallium is a byproduct metal recovered in some countries from flue dusts and
residues collected in the smelting of copper, zinc, and lead ores. Although thallium was contained in ores mined or processed in the United States, it has not been recovered domestically since 1981. Consumption of thallium metal and its compounds continued for most of their established end uses. These uses included a semiconductor material for selenium rectifiers, an activator in gamma radiation detection equipment, an electrical resistance component in infrared radiation detection and transmission equipment, and a crystalline filter for light diffraction in acousto-optical measuring devices. Other uses included an alloying component with mercury for low-temperature measurements, an additive in glass to increase its refractive index and density, a catalyst or intermediate in the synthesis of organic compounds, and a high-density liquid for sink-float separation of minerals. Also, the use of radioactive thallium compounds for medical purposes in cardiovascular imaging continued in 2003.