In the grand scheme of the periodic table, element 52 isn’t particularly dangerous. I wouldn’t grind up the stuff an eat it, mind you, but I certainly have more dangerous samples in my collection. Despite this, though, I exercise the same contamination precautions when handling my sample of tellurium that I use when handling radioactive minerals. “Why,” you may ask, “is this guy so paranoid about tellurium?” The answer lies in one of this metalloid’s unique traits. Tellurium, if absorbed into the body, makes careless element collectors and researchers reek of garlic-like “tellurium breath” for weeks.

My one and only sample of this benign-yet-scary element is this sample of native tellurium.

A sample of native tellurium.

A sample containing a silver line of native tellurium, as well as some yellow tellurite (tellurium(II) oxide).

Seeing as collecting elements in the first place can act as a social hindrance, I would rather waste some nitrile gloves each time I handle this sample than end up smelling like garlic.

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