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As in a recent question, I mentioned I collect elements. My collection already has quite a few elements and a rare alloy

(I have silicon, molybdenum, tungsten, gold, platinum, silver, copper, aluminum, chromium, cobalt, and magnesium, and a rare gold alloy (1 part gold, 2 parts aluminum) that has a bright purple hue)

Im trying to find more elements to add to my collection but I wanted to know which would be the safest to own?

Probably my only slightly dangerous element is magnesium, as it can burn, and quite hot at that.

Im talking in terms of elements that can exist at room temperature, or near it, and not oxidize a lot, or combust / release toxic oxides / radioactive particles / act as a poison (such as mercury or lead)

As for ones I already know / think are safe enough, and that I want to buy, Im currently looking at titanium, iridium, niobium, and scandium at the moment

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    $\begingroup$ As a chemist I am used to all kind of dangerous stuff that is kept in sealed glass vials, and have no problem with this. Nothing happens if you can make sure the glass remains in one piece. A block of lead is not particularly dangerous. Magnesium burns once ignited, but so does wood... Would you like to touch the stuff? What do you want to do with it? $\endgroup$ Dec 2 '21 at 19:03
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    $\begingroup$ I used to have an element collection, but after retirement I donated some elements to my former department and the environmental health and safety folks there and I also sent back, gratis, some elements I purchased from Metallium. You might look at the linked website to see how the more dangerous non-radioactive elements, e.g., bromine, are made safely available to collectors. And, of course, what @Snijderfrey said is good. Iridium, by the way, is insanely expensive now. $\endgroup$
    – Ed V
    Dec 2 '21 at 19:30
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    $\begingroup$ Have you thought of pure carbon $\ce{C}$(graphite), iron $\ce{Fe}$, zinc $\ce{Zn}$, tin $\ce{Sn}$, sulfur $\ce{S}$ ? They are all easy to obtain, and not specially toxic. The gases like oxygen $\ce{O2}$, nitrogen $\ce{N2}$, hydrogen $\ce{H2}$ or noble gases, can be stored in closed vessels $\endgroup$
    – Maurice
    Dec 2 '21 at 20:43
  • $\begingroup$ Nickel and cobalt should be easy. Nirod- filler metal for cast iron welding , is 95 % Ni. Unalloyed cobalt not so easy . Vitallium used for dentures is Co + Cr , tell people it is Co, they won't know the difference. $\endgroup$ Dec 2 '21 at 22:15
  • $\begingroup$ Rare earth magnets have some odd elements , but you would need to find the compositions., and unlikely any are unalloyed. $\endgroup$ Dec 2 '21 at 22:18
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What is safe very much depends on your experience with handling of dangerous substances, your equipment, storage conditions etc. It is hard to give a general answer, but from your question it appears that you have little experience with chemicals and assessing how hazardous they are in certain conditions. So my advice would be: Stay on the safe side and do not take any risks you cannot assess. However, I think it would be better if you made the decision yourself, rather than based on a list or recommendation by anonymous people on some random internet forum.

One approach could be to visit a website of one of the major chemical suppliers. They usually sell quite a few elements, but also are obliged to supply the material safety data sheet (MSDS), at least in Europe. Have a look at them, they are informative. For example, an MSDS for silver I just had a look at states on the first page:

Not a hazardous substance or mixture according to Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008.

You can sefely conclude that silver will not be dangerous. For lead, the MSDS says:

Reproductive toxicity (Category 1A), H360FD Effects on or via lactation, H362 Specific target organ toxicity - repeated exposure, Oral (Category 1), Central nervous system, Blood, Immune system, Kidney, H372 For the full text of the H-Statements mentioned in this Section, see Section 16.

So yes, lead is dangerous in some ways, especially if it enters your body, but for one big solid lump that does not happen accidentally so easily, in contrast to powder for example which you could breathe in. You can look at the H and P (hazard and precautionary) statements in the MSDS if you want to get a better impresssion. But for a proper assessment, you would have to find some competent person you trust. I would say that a piece of lead that you only look at and do not manipulate in any other way is harmless, but would suggest that you make up your own mind.

One note for MSDSs: They read rather drastic usually, and I assume this is on purpose. So if you want to be on the safe side, they are a good indicator.


Just to let you know: Cobalt, one of the elements you already have, reads like this:

Flammable solids (Category 1), H228 Eye irritation (Category 2), H319 Respiratory sensitization (Category 1), H334 Skin sensitization (Category 1), H317 Germ cell mutagenicity (Category 2), H341 Carcinogenicity (Category 1B), H350 Reproductive toxicity (Category 1B), H360F Long-term (chronic) aquatic hazard (Category 4), H413 For the full text of the H-Statements mentioned in this Section, see Section 16.

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    $\begingroup$ (+1) Good answer, though I hear silver bullets are bad for vampires! ;-) $\endgroup$
    – Ed V
    Dec 2 '21 at 20:36
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    $\begingroup$ @EdV, I would think vampires are left out of Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 (but I would have to check, to be honest). $\endgroup$ Dec 2 '21 at 20:46
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    $\begingroup$ In my best old office, I had lots of stuff on the oak shelves, including 5 bottles containing C, Si, Ge, Sn and Pb. A student saw them and asked if I was allowed to have lead! Good I did not show him the pound of As or half pound of Tl. $\endgroup$
    – Ed V
    Dec 2 '21 at 20:51
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    $\begingroup$ I have used lead strips to weight aquarium plants for 70 years. I will let you know if there is ever a problem . Because plumbium was the material of choice for drinking water pipes for about 2000 years , I am not very worried. $\endgroup$ Dec 2 '21 at 21:55
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, I appreciate all the info, and yeah, my storage conditions are "casual" at best. Im just a programmer / modeler who happens to enjoy collecting things, especially shiny metals and rare / expensive things. Ill just stay on the safe side and not buy anything that could harm me or anyone else in any way. $\endgroup$ Dec 2 '21 at 23:06

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