Agent Name

Germanium

CAS Number

7440-56-4

Formula

Ge

Major Category

Metals

Synonyms

Germanium element; Germanium, metal powder; [ChemIDplus] Germanium pieces; [MSDSonline]

Category

Metalloid Compounds (Germanium)

Description

Lustrous greyish-white brittle metalloid; [Merck Index] Silver-colored odorless pieces; [MSDSonline]

Sources/Uses

Used to make rectifying devices (germanium diodes), transistors, and red-fluorescing phosphors; Also used in dental alloys, catalysts, electroplating, infrared optics, gamma-ray spectroscopy, fiber optics, and veterinary medications; [HSDB] Used in brazing alloys, gold alloys, and beryllium alloys; [Hawley] Mainly used to make infrared sensing systems; Use in semiconductors is declining; Worldwide uses are: fiber optic systems (30%), polymerization catalysts (25%), electronic/solar applications (15%), and other (phosphors, metallurgy, and chemotherapy); [Nordberg, p. 802]

Comments

A metalloid in group IVa of the periodic table along with carbon, silicon, tin, and lead; Comparatively low systemic toxicity: injures the kidneys, liver, and nerves; Topical application of Ge dioxide caused no irritation, but Ge tetrachloride, which hydrolyzes releasing HCL, caused ulcerations after 2 hours; Oral LD50 (rat) = 3700 mg/kg; Toxic signs after lethal doses included hypothermia, listlessness, tremor, convulsions, and respiratory paralysis; Liver injury is observed in high-dose acute, subacute, and chronic studies; Occupationally exposed workers had increased urinary albumin and transferrin; Patients taking high-dose germanium supplements have developed neuropathy; [Nordberg, p. 799-812] From 1982-1991, 18 cases of acute renal failure and 2 deaths were reported in patients taking 16 to 328 grams of germanium over a period of 4-36 months. This dose is 100 to 2000 times the average dietary intake (1.5 mg/day); [HSDB]

Exposure Assessment
Lethal Concentration

LCLo (rat) = 3860 mg/m3/4h

Half Life

Inadequate data, but estimated at 1.5 days whole-body retention time in rats; [Nordberg, p. 557]

Adverse Effects
Neurotoxin

Sensorimotor Neuropathy

Hepatotoxin

Hepatotoxin, Secondary

Nephrotoxin

Yes

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Processes

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