Want Some Rhodium? Here’s How. Is It Bad For You?

Cross section of a metal-core converter
Image via Wikipedia

Hang out alongside any major highway and breathe deeply.  Or get a machine to do it for you.  Rhodium is in the air, vaporized in small amounts by the cars catalytic converters.

I see a day when Rhodium prospectors line our nation’s highways with collecting pots, the modern equivalent of gold panning.  A second Rhodium rush to California, where the great L.A. Rhodium payload awaits.

But will there be casulties?  We honestly don’t know.  No one has really managed to poison themselves with Rhodium.  Here’s the latest data.

Sci Total Environ. 2004 Jan 5;318(1-3):1-43.

Platinum group elements in the environment and their health risk.


Micro and Trace Analysis Centre, University of Antwerp, Universiteitsplein 1, Antwerp B-2610, Belgium.


Accumulation of platinum group elements (PGEs) in the environment has been increased over the time. Catalytic converters of modern vehicles are considered to be the main sources of PGE pollution, since the correlation is between the Pt:Rh ratios in various environmental compartments and in converter units. The present literature survey shows that the concentration of these metals has increased significantly in the last decades in diverse environmental matrices; like airborne particulate matter, soil, roadside dust and vegetation, river, coastal and oceanic environment. Generally, PGEs are referred to behave in an inert manner and to be immobile. However, there is an evidence of spread and bioaccumulation of these elements in the environment. Platinum content of road dusts can be soluble, consequently, it enters the waters, sediments, soil and finally, the food chain. The effect of chronic occupational exposure to Pt compounds is well-documented, and certain Pt species are known to exhibit allergenic potential. However, the toxicity of biologically available anthropogenic Pt is not clear. Hence, there is a need to study the effect on human health of long-term chronic exposure to low levels of Pt compounds.

PMID: 14654273



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