Crystals That Can Be Hazardous To Your Health
Who doesn't love crystals and gemstones? I've loved crystals and gems since I was a child. So much so that I found a way to surround myself with them as a part of my daily job. Sounds like a dream come true right? Well, it mostly is, but just like any profession, there are some risk factors and safety considerations. Crystals have really come into their own in recent years, and if you take a wander on the world wide web, you will see for yourself. These little gifts from Mother Nature herself have hit the main stage, no longer relegated to a dusty cabinet in a cluttered shop full of incense and dragon candle holders. They are literally everywhere. In candles, drink bottles, and body products, you name it, someone has found a way to incorporate a crystal into it. But make no mistake, crystals, as beautiful as they are, are not all love and light, all of the time. Some of these beauties, if misused, can make you very, very sick. Here are a few examples of crystals that can be toxic when used incorrectly and even some that are just so dangerous that you should not even have them in your collection!
There is something just so breathtakingly beautiful about Malachite. Whether it's the rich green colouring or the mesmerising bands and swirls, it really does make for a stunning statement piece in every collection. Malachite is a soft material that lends itself to being carved into intricate designs and sculptures with ease. It can attract a hefty price tag for fine-quality large specimens. In addition to its beauty, it carries a powerful combination of metaphysical properties. It is known as a stone of transformation and one that holds deep healing energies. These properties might lend a novice crystal worker to believe that Malachite is the perfect crystal to use when making crystal essences or elixirs. And that's where I must stop you and emphatically say, " WHOA NELLY!"
Malachite is comprised of copper carbonate. Its dust can cause damage to the endocrine and central nervous system if it is ingested, inhaled, or absorbed into the skin. So grinding up some malachite for an elixir doesn't sound like such a great idea anymore. Even raw, unpolished specimens can shed fine dust particles when handled.
The good news is wearing or handling polished Malachite is perfectly safe. However, I would still steer clear of adding it to any kind of drinking vessel or body product, polished or not. Always better to be safe than sorry, right?
Note: The high copper content of Malachite is what makes this mineral potentially problematic. Many of the intense green and blue minerals contain a similar composition. Minerals such as Azurite and Chrysocolla are also high in copper and should be avoided for internal use.
2: Pyrite ( Fools Gold)
There is just something about a shiny, golden pyrite cube that just gets me every damn time. It is literally one stone I just cannot go past. Cubes, clusters, suns, whatever the form, Pyrite has an energy about it that just makes you want to reach out and touch it. Pyrite has strong protective energy; it unlocks our creativity and attracts success and prosperity. So, naturally, it seems like it might be an excellent crystal to use in an elixir or intention candle, perhaps? Yeah, not so fast.
Pyrite is an iron sulphide mineral. That means that it is made from a combination of iron and, you guessed it, sulphur. Not something you want to be ingesting in your drink bottle or elixir, that's for sure. It is also possible for Pyrite to release small amounts of arsenic over time as it oxidises, and it's pretty safe to say that you definitely do NOT want to be drinking that! But what about the candles, you ask?
Pyrite is sometimes found as an embed in some crystal intention candles. I even make one myself. As a decorative item, Pyrite is quite safe to have in the home and even adorn your candle's top. However, suppose the Pyrite is left in the candle as it burns. In that case, the heat combined with the sulphur of the Pyrite will release sulphur dioxide gas, which is highly toxic. This is why we remind you so many times to remove all of your crystals from your candles before you burn them. It's not just to protect the crystals from heat damage but also to avoid any possible chemical reactions. Remember, crystals are minerals, minerals are a combination of different elements, and the introduction of heat can start a chemical reaction that may be hazardous to not only your health but your children and pets as well. Think back to high school chemistry now, if you dare.
The good news is Pyrite as a specimen in your collection or in a piece of jewellery is perfectly safe. Just be sure to keep it away from any heat sources and keep it out of your mouth.
Note: When considering crystals for use in elixirs, be aware of varieties that contain a composite of minerals. For example, we know the potential toxicity issues regarding Pyrite, but did you know that Lapis Lazuli also contains Pyrite? The veins of Pyrite can be seen as the gold flecks running through the Lapis.
There is no denying that the deep gemmy red colour of Cinnabar is striking and captivating. It is easy to see why one might covet a piece of this stunning mineral for their own collection. Cinnabar is as interesting as it is beautiful, with a rich history and some beneficial metaphysical properties to boot. Historically, Cinnabar was ground up and used to create the pigment vermillion and even used as a cosmetic or to create red tattoo ink. Yikes!
If I were to show you a piece of this mineral and tell you that it was a fabulous stone for transformation, self-discovery, manifestation, and helping to bring you into your true power, it would seem like a no-brainer that this was one powerhouse of a crystal that you should absolutely own, right? Wrong.
Cinnabar is potentially one of the most dangerous crystals you can have in your collection. The reason is simple. It is the primary ore where mercury is extracted. Cinnabar, when heated in a furnace, releases mercury as a vapour. I don't think I need to ramble on and on as to why this is a problem for you as a crystal collector or crystal worker. It should not be handled by an inexperienced person and never with bare skin. Suppose you are in possession of a Cinnabar specimen. In that case, it should be kept in a separate, preferably locked cabinet with a warning sign for any unsuspecting people who may come across it. And I think it goes without saying that it should always be kept out of reach of children and pets. Some crystal merchants will still encourage you to work with Cinnabar, albeit with some safety precautions in place. In all honesty, there are so many varieties of crystal that we can work with safely and with similar metaphysical benefits. In my opinion, the risks of Cinnabar far outweigh the benefits.
It's shiny, silver, metallic, and oh-so futuristic. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's lead. Galena is a magnificent mineral with a stunning structure that looks like something out of a sci-fi movie but, unfortunately, as a lead-sulphide mineral, it makes it onto my list. You don't need a chemistry degree to know that lead is harmful. It's highly toxic, and you don't want it anywhere near or in your body.
Now, you can handle a piece of Galena safely. It really is the dust or particles that you want to avoid. Unfortunately, its incredible softness (2.5 on the Mohs scale) makes it pretty easy to produce dust and particles. So, suppose you are going to handle Galena. In that case, gloves are a must, a face mask is recommended, and proper storage away from children, pets, and other people is non-negotiable. This is definitely not one for the household collection.
Damn, why are the prettiest ones always the most dangerous? Crocoite is a flat-out stunner, and we Aussies get to take full credit for producing the best specimens of this mineral. It is found abundantly in various mines throughout Tasmania. It is unique, vibrant, engaging, oh-so fragile (with a hardness of 2.5), and absolutely full of lead. Bummer.
It is no secret that lead is one of the most toxic heavy metals in existence. Lead poisoning is no joke as it can cause severe damage to every organ and system within the body. As if that wasn't enough, Crocoite is a double threat. It also poses a health risk due to the presence of hexavalent chromium. The softness of this mineral makes handling it really difficult. Those long, thin crystals that make this piece look like a punk-rocker hedgehog are so easy to break. Like ridiculously easy. Like pick it up ever so gently, and they crumble off, easy.
It is possible to safely handle Crocoite if you were so inclined, as long as there is no dust or small particles to be ingested, inhaled, or absorbed but really, when it comes to lead, we've said it before, is it really worth the risk? And trust me, the minute one of those tiny spines breaks off, and it will, you have dust and particles.
Ok, that's enough of the lead minerals. Get a load of this yellow beauty! Looks like rock candy, maybe lemon flavoured? Definitely some kind of citrus, am I right? If this were candy, it would be "acute arsenic poisoning" flavoured. Luckily, it's not candy, and nobody should ever put this in their mouth under any circumstances. This stunning yellow specimen is Orpiment, an arsenic-sulphide mineral. There is a historical background story to this striking mineral. Alchemists once believed that they could create gold using Orpiment (sounds ridiculous). The Chinese used it medicinally (also absurd, but it is actually true).
Some mineral enthusiasts believe that you can safely handle Orpiment, but we know that arsenic poisoning is said to be pretty horrible so maybe, just don't.
Oh, baby, did we save the best for last. This little ripper could have come right out of a marvel comic book plot.
Copper, phosphate, uranium, radon, oh yeah, this rock has it all. It's toxic, it's carcinogenic, it's radioactive, for crying out loud. If exposure doesn't turn you into some crazy powerful super-hero (or super-villain), then nothing will.
All jokes aside, this one is actually really dangerous. Let's not even consider touching it, let alone owning it. I mean, I do personally own Crocoite specimens, and I do have a pretty neat piece of Galena, albeit kept for educational purposes and safely locked away from everyone and everything. I do not and will not own a piece of Torbernite. I'm not even going to bother with the "here's how to handle it safely" spiel; just don't handle it. In fact, don't even spend time in a room with it. Radon is not to be trifled with, you hear?
I find it somewhat disturbing that pretty much anyone can buy this stuff. Granted it's not cheap, but you can buy it. But don't. Seriously, if you want a beautiful green mineral, get yourself some tourmaline. It looks incredible and doesn't want to kill you.
Ok, that will about do it for now. That is really only the tip of the iceberg for toxic minerals. Still, I hope it has made for some interesting reading. I think you will agree that the vast and wonderful world of crystals is a veritable rabbit hole, and once you fall down it, there is almost no crystal that you won't covet. The beautiful vibrant colours, infinite shapes and forms, rich histories, and undeniable energy aside. We now know that just because it is "natural" doesn't mean it isn't dangerous. You may be asking, "Well, how the hell do I know what is safe and what isn't?" Let's finish up with some easy tips to keep you safe when choosing and working with crystals.
1: Do your research. I cannot stress this enough. There is a lot of confusing and conflicting information floating around in the books and on the web. I recommend the following websites for accurate, gemmological, geological, and scientifically sound information on various crystals and minerals
2: If in doubt, leave it out. When choosing crystals to use in body products or for ingestion, if there is any doubt that it might pose a health risk, err on the side of caution and leave it out. There are plenty of safe options to use instead, and in the end, it is simply not worth the risk of making yourself or somebody else unwell.
3: ALWAYS remove crystals from candles before you burn them. As mentioned above, the heat from a burning candle can damage the crystals and, in some cases, start a chemical reaction that can have some toxic results. Crystals are designed to be a decoration only. They are only lightly embedded in the very top surface layer of the wax. They should be easy to remove, and any residual wax can be easily washed off the crystal in warm water. You can then add the crystals to your collection and safely enjoy your candle.
Remember, crystals are minerals or rocks. Minerals are a combination of various elements, and rocks are a combination of multiple mineral types. Some elements are safe, and others can be deadly. Even two safe substances, when combined, can react with one another and become toxic. And as the sayings go, the dose makes the poison, and it's better to be safe than sorry.