Is tantalum Toxic?

Tantalum is a shiny, silvery metal which is soft when is pure. It is almost immune to chemical attack at temperatures below 150℃. Tantalum is virtually resistant to corrosion due to an oxide film on its surface.

Applications of tantalum

Tantalum is used to manufacture surgical implants, capacitors, aircraft engines, and alloys. It is used to produce high-temperature devices because of its high melting point. The element also has application in the chemical industry because of its good corrosion resistance. It is used to manufacture refractive index glass, electron tubes, and alloys for missiles, nuclear reactors, chemical equipment, and jet engines.

However, the element is rarely added to alloys because it makes some metals more brittle. Tantalum is used to manufacture tubes because it forms oxides and nitrides that create the vacuum. In addition, it is used to manufacture special optical glasses, non-ferrous alloys for aerospace and nuclear applications, metallurgical and chemical processing equipment, high-voltage surge arresters, and more. It is also used to make circuitry for devices and computers, electrolytic capacitors, and tantalum compounds and alloys. Glass-line equipment is also manufactured. Its compounds are used to produce clips, mesh, surgical equipment, and machinery.

solid-tantalum-chip-capacitors
Solid Tantalum Chip Capacitors

The harm of tantalum

Tantalum powder is not as serious as other metals (zirconium, titanium, etc.), but it has the risk of fire and explosion.

Tantalum-related jobs often carry the risk of burns, electric shocks, eyes, and trauma. The refining process involves toxic and dangerous chemicals such as hydrogen fluoride, sodium, and organic solvents.

Toxicity

Both tantalum oxide and tantalum metal have low systemic toxicity, which may be due to their poor solubility. However, there are also skin, eye, and respiratory hazards. In alloys of cobalt, tungsten, and niobium, tantalum is considered to be the cause of pneumoconiosis and skin damage caused by hard metal dust.

Tantalum hydroxide has no toxic effect on chicken embryo, and intraperitoneal injection of tantalum oxide has no toxic effect on rats. However, when tantalum chloride has an LD50 of 38mg/kg(Ta), the compound salt K2TaF7 is about one-fourth toxic.

tantalum-chloride
Tantalum Chloride

Safety precautions

In most operations, general ventilation can maintain the dust concentration of tantalum and its compounds below the exposure limit. Flame, arc, and spark should be avoided in the area where tantalum powder is handled. If workers are regularly exposed to dust concentrations close to the critical value, regular physical examinations should be conducted, with emphasis on lung function. For operations containing tantalum fluoride and hydrogen fluoride, precautions applicable to these compounds should be followed.

Tantalum bromide (TaBr5), tantalum chloride (TaCl5) and tantalum fluoride (TaF5) shall be stored in a clearly labeled and cool, ventilated place away from compounds affected by acid or acid smoke, and the persons concerned should be reminded of the danger.

Stanford Advanced Materials supplies high-quality tantalum products to meet our customers’ R&D and production needs. Please visit https://www.samaterials.com/ for more information.

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