Facts About Thallium Poisoning
Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
The March 2007 poisoning of an American woman and her daughter in Russia with the element thalliumsparked widespread media attention. After the women became ill in Moscow, they returned to the U.S. for treatment, where the diagnosis of thallium poisoning was confirmed.
Thallium is a soft, malleable gray metal that was previously widely used in rat poisons and insecticides. Thallium itself and compounds containing the element are highly toxic. It is particularly dangerous because compounds containing thallium are colorless, odorless, and tasteless. Because of this high toxicity, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends against the use of thallium in rodent and insect poisons. However, poisons containing thallium are still in use in some parts of the world.