Precious minerals find use in many things in the modern world, from circuit boards to tableware. But they’re also some of the most toxic materials known to science. Over the years excavating them has proven to be very dangerous, so much that some of the minerals have been phased out of industrial production altogether.
These are the 10 most deadly minerals on earth.
Chalcanthite – CuSO4·5H2O
This is a hydrated water-soluble copper sulfate that is used to ore copper. Chalcanthite can easily dissolve, so it’s necessary to keep the environment dry. Also, as it is water soluble, it can crystallize out again from solution. This mineral is toxic to animals and in high quantities can be toxic to humans as well.
Stibnite – Sb2S3
Stibnite is an antimony sulfide mineral that has been used for thousands of years for cosmetics to darken eyebrows and lashes. This mineral was also used to make eating tools, which at the time caused poisoning from antimony ingestion.
Asbestos – Mg3Si2O5(OH)
Many people associate this mineral with lung cancer. Although, Asbestos in not one – but six defined separate minerals who are very toxic. The fibers of this mineral can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.
Torbernite – Cu(UO2)2(PO4)2·8 – 12 H2O
This dangerous mineral is composed of hydrated green copper, phosphate, and uranyl. Often found in granites that contain uranium, Torbernite has a radioactive nature. The mineral releases radon and can be the cause of lung cancer if exposed long enough.
Cinnabar – HgS
Cinnabar can be deadly even in small concentrations. It’s a mercury sulphide mineral that when oxidized, produces toxic compounds that cause irreparable harm to the nervous systems of children. It can be absorbed through the respiratory track or the skin.
Galena – PbS
As one of the most widely distributed minerals, Galena is a slow killer. Unlike mercury, which will kill you immediately, this mineral once inside it can’t be flushed out of your system. It will accumulate over the years and eventually it will reach a level that is toxic enough to kill you. Once it gets to your system both you and your offspring may pay the price, because its toxicity is carcinogenic and causes severe birth defects.
Hutchinsonite – (Tl,Pb)2As5S9
It’s a form of arsenic sulfide with two components – thallium and lead. Thallium salts are very dangerous, because of their high toxicity. They are used as rat poison and in insecticides, and this combination with thallium and lead can be deadly. Hutchinsonite can usually be found in hydrothermal vents.
Orpiment – As2S3
With a stunning orange-yellow color, this mineral can be naturally found in hydrothermal vents, hot springs, and fumaroles. Orpiment is also an arsenic sulfide mineral which was once used in China medicinally despite its toxicity. Besides this, it was also used in alchemy in searching for a way to create gold. If handled incorrectly, this mineral can lead to arsenic poisoning.
Riebeckite – Na2(Fe2+3Fe3+2)Si8O22(OH)2
The mineral is known as Crocidolite and thanks to its strong, fire-resistant, and flexible nature it was used for a variety of commercial and industrial applications in the past. This finely fibrous variety usually originates from altered metamorphic rocks, and the fibers from this mineral can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.
Arsenopyrite – FeAsS
This mineral has a steel metallic color and can be found in hydrothermal vents and pegmatites. As an iron arsenic sulfide, arsenopyrite leads to a number of environmental and human damages. Oxidation of arsenopyrite leads to soluble arsenic in water and subsequent acid mine drainage.