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Is bismuth safe to handle (touching, carrying it around...)?

  1. Jul 28, 2015 #1
    I recently received a 200g sample of pure (99.99%) bismuth for my little element collection.
    This thing is so cool!

    It was all broken in pieces and almost powdered, so i melted it into a beautiful ingot using my kitchen stove.

    Is this metal safe to touch and/or handle with bare, unprotected hands?
    And also, will the alpha particles coming from the sample do any harm to me?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 28, 2015 #2


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    Based on the Bismuth's Wiki article on Toxicology and Ecotoxicology, it looks relatively safe.

    With "less toxic" being the key phrase here. That doesn't mean that it can't harm you in sufficient quantities or with careless handling.
    I wouldn't use that pan for cooking anything else. :wideeyed:
  4. Jul 28, 2015 #3


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    There are no alpha particles being emitted by Bismuth as Bismuth isn't radioactive.
  5. Jul 28, 2015 #4


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    Yes, for all practical purposes.
    Weakly radioactive is a heck of an understatement here - that's a long half-life! :wideeyed:
  6. Jul 28, 2015 #5

    Well, the bismuth didn't stick to the pan. I just knocked it in the bottom and the whole ingot fell off, with no leftovers.
    Then i washed the pan thoroughly and it's ready for use with food again.

    I also wash my hands after handling it.
  7. Jul 28, 2015 #6
    I just melted it so it is easier to handle and to make sure no dust or powder will be generated, that would be bad.
  8. Jul 28, 2015 #7


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    Just because it didn't stick doesn't mean it is not contaminated.

    I can only repeat what Borg said: I wouldn't use that pan for cooking anything else.
  9. Jul 28, 2015 #8
    I understand. And will throw the pan away.

    Thanks for the advice everyone.
  10. Oct 5, 2015 #9
    Bismuth IS radioactive.Just like a billion billion time longer than the age of the universe.Lead-209(i think)IS the heaviest stable isotope so far.
  11. Oct 5, 2015 #10
    Just wear gloves.
  12. Oct 5, 2015 #11


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    Why does everybody have the jeebs about bismuth all of a sudden? I'll bet a lot of people have this in their medicine cabinet:

    For years, bismuth minded its own business. Now, everybody's all up in bismuth's business about being radioactive or toxic. Its toxicity is quite low for being a heavy metal:


    Fun fact: bismuth expands when it freezes, like water does.
  13. Oct 22, 2015 #12
    Yes bismuth is safe to touch.

    There are several aloys of bismuth and tin that have interesting properties. One where when the metal freezes (solidifies) it first shrinks then over a period of hours expands to the size of the mold. It was once used to examine rifling. I think it's amazing.
  14. Oct 22, 2015 #13
    This isn't exactly the alloy I was thinking of but it has similar properties first shrinking after solidifying then over the course of hours expanding.

    42.5% Bi
    37.7% Pb
    11.3% Sn
    8.5% Cd

    This came from google books
    Technology: Handbook of Vacuum Physics
    edited by A. H. Beck

    Attached Files:

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