Agent Name
Alternative Name
Tellurium and compounds
CAS Number
13494-80-9; varies
Te, varies
Major Category
Aurum paradoxum; Metallum problematum; Telloy; Tellur [Polish]; Tellurium element; Tellurium, metallic; [ChemIDplus] Tellurium and compounds;
Metalloid Compounds (Tellurium)
Odorless, dark-gray to brown, amorphous powder or grayish-white, brittle solid; [NIOSH]
Used in semiconductor devices, storage batteries, tellurium vapor lamps, alloys (lead, copper, tin, steel, and iron), blasting caps, isotopes for medical imaging; Also used as a pigment in enamels and glass, to produce a black finish on silverware, and to vulcanize rubber; [HSDB] Bismuth telluride is used in thermoelectric devices. Organic tellurium compounds are used in bactericides, pharmaceuticals, photographic development, etching solutions, and water treatment chemicals. Tellurium is present in garlic, milk, nuts, and fish. In the body, tellurium is converted to dimethyl telluride, which gives a garlic odor to the breath and sweat. [Rom, p. 1094]
The TLV excludes the compound hydrogen telluride (H2Te). Garlic odor of the breath, urine, and sweat are signs of tellurium absorption. Foundry workers exposed to 0.01-0.1 mg/m3 with a peak of 0.74 mg/m3 complained of metallic taste, somnolence, and garlic odor. Signs of tellurium poisoning in experimental animals include pneumonitis, hemolytic anemia, hematuria, paralysis, convulsions, and coma. In 2 cases of human poisoning after instillation of 2 grams of sodium tellurite by ureteral catheter, the patients suffered cyanosis, stupor, and signs of liver injury and died 6 hours after the accident. There have not been any reports of serious occupational illnesses or deaths. [ACGIH] Causes damage to the nervous system, liver, kidneys, and heart in animal experiments; [Nordberg, p. 1217] In high-dose animal studies, tellurium produces birth defects (hydrocephalus). [Frazier] Tellurium is a "hepatotoxic agent." [Zimmerman, p. 4] Tellurium is a skin and respiratory tract irritant. It can have effects on the CNS and liver. [ICSC] See "Tellurium hexafluoride."
Biomedical References

Exposure Assessment

Skin Designation (ACGIH)
Insufficient data
0.1 mg/m3, as Te (except hydrogen telluride)
0.1 mg/m3, as Te
25 mg/m3, as Te
Excerpts from Documentation for IDLHs
Basis for revised IDLH: No inhalation toxicity data are available on which to base an IDLH for tellurium compounds. Therefore, the revised IDLH for tellurium compounds is 25 mg Te/m3 based on acute oral toxicity data in animals [Izmerov et al. 1982; Muehlberger and Schrenk 1928].
Lethal Concentration
LC50 (rat) > 2,420 mg/m3/4h
Explanatory Notes
mp = 450 deg C; [ACGIH]
Half Life
Rats in blood: 9 days; Rats in kidneys: 23 days; In bone: 600 days; [Nordberg, p. 815]

Adverse Effects

Other CNS neurotoxin
Hepatoxic (a) from occupational exposure (secondary effect) or (b) in animal studies or in humans after ingestion
Reproductive Toxin

Diseases, Processes, and Activities Linked to This Agent