I am PhD student in solid state physics. I have been working with a fine powder of a transition metal oxide containing trivalent thallium. The oxide is not soluble in water.

In my university, physicists never learn how to deal with dangerous compounds properly (there's this one guy in my lab who does not believe in wearing gloves...), so I wanted to ask you guys how dangerous you think this compound is.

I'm not dealing with huge quantities of this sample, about 10-100 mg. Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of that particular powder sample is that the grain size is small enough that even the smallest stream of air during sample handling causes a loss of a small amount of powder (= visible grey traces on kimwipes). That probably makes it easy to inhale small quantities without even noticing.

I have occasionally done experiments with that stuff since 2 years now, and I'm not dead yet, nor have I ever noticed any symptoms of thallium poisoning, so I feel like I'm doing fine. I'm just curious how many people I could kill what could happen to me if things go bad (touching the powder with bare skin, inhalation, touching the eye with contaminated gloves because I'm tired, ingestion, etc.)

PS: This is my first time posting on any SE, so if I'm doing it wrong please let me know.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ In all seriousness, before I post an answer describing just how toxic thallium compounds are, have you ever read a SDS for any thallium compound, such as Tl2O3? $\endgroup$ – long Jan 18 '16 at 23:54
  • $\begingroup$ What is the transition metal oxide? This can affect the answer $\endgroup$ – A.K. Jan 19 '16 at 1:32
  • $\begingroup$ I worked with thallium as a young vacation student in an aerospace company. It was regarded as a significant hazard and beside the usual protective clothing we had urine samples before/after to see if we'd ingested any. $\endgroup$ – Rich Apr 3 '17 at 5:19

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