Tellurium is a semi-metallic, crystalline, brittle, silver-white element. It usually takes the form of a dark gray powder and possesses both metal and non-metal properties. Tellurium forms many compounds corresponding to those of sulfur and selenium. Tellurium remains unaffected by water or hydrochloric acid, but dissolves in nitric acid.
Applications of tellurium
Tellurium is often used as an additive in steel and in aluminum, copper, lead and tin alloys. Tellurium is added to improve resistance and corrosion resistance. It is used in cast iron, ceramics, detonators, solar panels, special glasses, etc. When added to rubber, tellurium accelerates its ripening process and makes it less susceptible to aging and the effect of oils.
Tellurium in the environment
Tellurium is found in carbon up to 2 ppm and is the main source of this metal. Tellurium can be absorbed by plants from the ground and can reach high levels (6 ppm), although relatively few plants which are consumed have more than 0.5 ppm.
Impact of tellurium on human health
Contact with tellurium is rare. Tellurium is teratogenic and, even in very small quantities, causes terrible breath and a foul body odor. The compounds of tellurium can be absorbed by the body through inhalation. The effects of tellurium inhalation include drowsiness, dry mouth, metallic taste, headache, garlic odor and nausea. Inhalation of tellurium irritates the eyes and respiratory system and can cause damage to the liver and central nervous system. Ingestion of tellurium may cause abdominal pain, constipation, vomiting.
Tellurium has no known biological function, although fungi can incorporate it in the position of sulfur and selenium into amino acids such as toluoro-cysteine and toluoro-methionine. Various organisms show a variable tolerance to tellurium compounds.
How can one determine if one has been exposed to tellurium?
We can measure the levels of tellurium in blood and most biological materials.
Determination of metals is done by ICP-MS (Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry, Inductively Coupled Argon Plasma Mass Spectrometry), a method that enables the simultaneous detection of many metals. Its sensitivity and accuracy are significantly better than conventional atomic absorption, with the ability to measure metals at concentrations up to 1 in 1015 (1 in 1 quadrillion, ppq)!
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Laboratory test results should not be interpreted from the numerical result of a single analysis. Test results should be interpreted in relation to each individual case and family history, clinical findings and the results of other laboratory tests and information. Your personal physician should explain the importance of your test results.
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