Cinnabar from Wanshan mine, Tongren Pref., Guizhou province, China. credit: Dakota Matrix Minerals

Precious minerals make the modern world go 'round—they're used in everything from circuit boards to tableware. They're also some of the most toxic materials known to science, and excavating them has proved so dangerous over the years, some have been phased out of industrial production altogether. Listed below are the 10 most deadly minerals on earth. These rocks do not need to be thrown to hurt you!!


Chalcanthite (hydrated copper sulphate) is the bright blue mineral grown from solution in science labs and home chemical kits. Chalcanthite should never be taste tested by amateur scientists for salt content, or an extremely serious overdose of copper could result. Just releasing crystals of the blue mineral has killed entire ponds of algae, and posed great environmental threats. . It is water soluble and will crystallise out again from solution. The copper in this mineral is very bio-available and is toxic to plants and in high quantities toxic to humans.


Hutchinsonite is a sulfosalt mineral of thallium, arsenic and lead with formula (Tl,Pb)2As5S9. Hutchinsonite is a hazardous but dramatic mixture of thallium, lead and arsenic. Is a rare sulphosalt mineral that requires handling with great care as all three of its main components are poisonous particularly thallium as it can cause hair loss, serious illness and death. The three poisonous metals form a lethal mineral cocktail that should be handled only with great caution.

Galena with baryte and pyrite
Galena is one of the most abundant and widely distributed sulfide minerals. Galena is the principle ore of lead, and forms glistening silver cubes with almost unnaturally perfect shapes. Although lead is normally extremely flexible, the sulfur content of galena makes it extraordinarily brittle and reactive to chemical treatment. It's not as bad as mercury, which will kill you immediately outright, but lead doesn't get flushed out of your system. It accumulates over the years, eventually reaching toxic levels. Once that happens both you and your kids pay the price, as lead toxicity is carcinogenic to you and is teratogenic (causing severe birth defects) to your offspring.


Asbestos is not one mineral but six defined separate minerals. One being a serpentine (chrysotile) and the other five being amphiboles (crocidolite, grunerite (amosite), tremolite, anthophyllite and actinolite). Unlike the other minerals in the top 10 deadliest. It was once widely used for a variety of commercial and industrial applications thanks to its strong, fire-resistant, and flexible nature—from ceiling tiles and roofing materials to flooring and thermal insulation. 

Torbernite Margabal

Torbernite is the mineral from hell. The prism shaped green crystals form as secondary deposits in granitic rocks, and are composed of uranium. Formed through a complex reaction between phosphorous, copper, water and uranium, the stunning crystal displays have seduced many mineral collectors into taking a sample for a shelf collection. The mineral is radioactive and emits the cancer forming radon gas. This is one mineral you do not want on your display cabinet shelf.


Erionite in Arizona

Erionite  (NaK2MgCa1.5)[Al8Si28]O72 28H2O)  is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral that belongs to a group of minerals called zeolites. It usually is found in volcanic ash that has been altered by weathering and ground water. It looks a lot like asbestos minerals and harms humans much in the same way: mesothelioma. It's primarily an industry-specific disease—or at least it was, until we realized that it caused super-cancer and stopped mining the stuff in the late 1980s.


Cinnabar (mercury sulphide - HgS) is the single most toxic mineral to handle on earth. It is the world’s main source of mercury and has been mined since Neolithic times. However, when oxidized, this element will produce methyl mercury and dimethyl mercury, two toxic compounds that cause irreparable harm to the nervous systems of children. It is deadly in small concentrations and can be absorbed through the respiratory tract, intestines, or skin. Even more incredibly, some ancient medical practitioners believed cinnabar held healing powers, and prescribed it for certain conditions.


Phenakite crystal from Mount Ikaka, Madagascar)
Phenacite is a fairly rare nesosilicate mineral consisting of beryllium orthosilicate, Be2SiO4. Phenacite is mined both as a gemstone and for its valuable beryllium content. Beryllium was once a precursor for many ceramic materials, until people figured out that inhaling Beryllium dust caused berylliosis—aka chronic beryllium disease. It's like silicosis but much more severe and also chronic. You don't recover from CBD simply by minimizing your berrylium exposure. Once you have it, you have it for life. Basically what happens is the lungs become hyper-sensitive to berrylium, which causes an allergic reaction wherein the lungs from little nodules called granulomas. These granulomas make breathing extremely difficult and can go on to instigate diseases like tuberculosis.



Stibnite is a sulfide mineral with the formula Sb2S3. For that reason, the huge, shining metallic crystals of this unstable compound were once fashioned into magnificent eating utensils. But the sword shaped crystals bore the powers of death to those who used them. Handling of this metalloid mineral can cause poisoning.


Hydroxyapatite (Ca5(PO4)3(OH)2 is a naturally occurring mineral form of calcium apatite. The phosphorous in your garden fertilizer and fluoride in your tap water very likely came from a rock like this, called Apatite. These phosphate minerals come in three varieties, each respectively containing elevated levels of OH, F, or Cl ions—the Hydroxyapatite version being a major component of your tooth enamel and the Fluorapatite version constituting what's dumped into civic water supplies to prevent cavities. And while having strong teeth and bones is a good thing, exposure to Hydroxyapatite (either by mining or processing it) will deposit those same minerals on your heart valves, effectively petrifying them.

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brantly said... November 8, 2015 at 8:24 PM

"It's not as bad as mercury, which will kill you immediately outright,"

From wiki.
"Quicksilver (liquid metallic mercury) is poorly absorbed by ingestion and skin contact. Its vapor is the most hazardous form. Animal data indicate less than 0.01% of ingested mercury is absorbed through the intact gastrointestinal tract, though it may not be true for individuals suffering from ileus. Cases of systemic toxicity from accidental swallowing are rare, and attempted suicide via intravenous injection does not appear to result in systemic toxicity.

Dimethyl Mercury will kiil you in 8 months from a few drops... Its not found in nature...

Unknown said... March 8, 2016 at 7:23 AM

Had no idea about that with phenacite.

Jenny Isle said... July 20, 2016 at 11:11 AM

Can you please elaborate on how a mineral like Phenacite can instigate a bacterial infection like tuberculosis?

Debbie Shepley said... November 17, 2016 at 8:54 PM

I have 2 of these, Stibnite and Chalcanthite, but my specimen of Chalcanthite is natural mined, not lab grown. Is it still as dangerous? I gave some to my grandson, too!!

Kathi Keinstein said... November 18, 2016 at 11:23 AM

Natural mined and lab grown Chalcanthite consist of the same chemical (although natural Chalcantite mighte be less pure than lab grown specimen).

The problem of Chalcantite is its high solubility in water, which allows its copper ions to be released very easily. That means: Don't eat it, clean your hands after touching the crystals intensively, and don't release Chalcantite or its solutions into the environment.

If you follow these safety instructions, the specimen aren't dangerous at all. Even if you swallow Chalcanthite or its solution, it causes severe vomiting. So your body gets rid of it to avoid a deadly intoxication. How old is your grandson? Does he understand instructions like these?

And it's the same with stibnite: Don't use it as a fork or similar. As long as it is kept safely on a shelf or in a display case, it isn't dangerous (by the way: when I studied chemistry, they handed antimony compounds like this over to us for lab work, because similar arsenic compounds were "too dangerous for beginner students" - and arsenic compounds like Orpiment (arsenic sulfide) are missing in this list ;)).

I keep Orpiment (in a transparent plastic box, so I rarely need to touch it), Stibnite, Galena and some other nearly-non-soluble lead compounds in my own showcase, and as long as I don't destroy the latter chemically to release the lead, the lead ores aren't dangerous, too.

Debbie Shepley said... November 23, 2016 at 7:14 PM

Kathi, Thank You so much for the information! I knew about not getting the Chalcanthite wet, but not about having to wash your hands after handling. I will let my grandson know, he is 12 so yes, he'll understand. All my specimens are in a glass case, and I just got him a glass and wood display case. He already had a plastic lidded case with divided sections.
Are there any other toxic minerals I should be aware of handling carefully? They don't tell you these things when you buy them!
Thanks again!

destravlr said... January 7, 2017 at 5:15 AM

This post is an unfortunate piece of scare writing just for effect or attention. This is not science; it is the misuse of partial information about hazard that may exist. The reader is not provided the caution that more information is needed to accurately judge whether or not a mineral specimen may harm them. This writeup makes me question the quality of the entire site.

Cheryl Rotole said... February 22, 2017 at 3:52 AM

Debbie Shepley ...
along with Galena; orpiment, wulfenite, Cerussite and Vanadinite are lead minerals.
Orpiment and Realgar are arsenic minerals
oh and Betaphites have uranium ore so they may be radioactive (so check before you keep in your common area or store in a "special box"
thats all i can think of for now. I'm sure there's others.

Carolina said... March 1, 2017 at 11:35 PM
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anne said... April 25, 2017 at 5:31 PM

Beryllium disease only occurs in some people who work closely with Beryllium and they have to be sensitized, as an allergy. It is an awful disease but safety procedures in industries working with Beryllium are now widely used. Many gemstones are forms of Beryllium, like emeralds, aquamarine, beryls, cat's eye, alexandrite. Most of these minerals are safe in crystal form. It is the processing phase that is the most dangerous.