Platinum is a rare precious metal that is used for the manufacturing of jewellery, automotive catalysts, laboratory equipment, dental implants and also as contact material for electrical conductance and as therapeutic agent in medicine. It is even more valuable than gold (due to its rareness) although it looks quite ordinary with its silver colouring.
How can I come into contact with this material?
Wearing of platinum jewellery is unproblematic. Platinum particles are used in many technical applications e.g. for the manufacturing of electrical switch contacts, heat conductors or thermocouples. Due to its high melting temperature and corrosion resistance it is also applied in the construction of medical and technical devices. But for all these cases there is a limited chance for direct contact with free platinum particles. 60% of the global demand for platinum is used for automotive catalysts. Since small amounts of the catalyst are being released into the exhaust stream, there is the possibility for inadvertent respiratory contact with platinum nanoparticles by inhalation of car exhaust fumes.
Cancer treatment (Chemotherapy) makes use of a specific platinum complex called Cisplatin or cis-platinum that acts toxic for both normal and cancerous cells.
Is there any risk from this material to humans and the environment?
It is possible that very small platinum particles (originating e.g. from car exhaust fumes) can be taken into the body during breathing in. These particles could then – to a certain extend – migrate from the lungs via the bloodstream to the liver where they do not cause any significant damage. In general platinum nanoparticles are considered to be non-toxic. The platinum-containing anti-cancer drug Cisplatin however offers desired toxic properties by disturbing the growth of fast growing cancer cells but affecting healthy cells as well.
In everyday life, there is little chance of humans or the environment to be exposed to platinum nanoparticles.
By the way…
- Platinum is the rarest precious metal and more expensive than gold.
- The threshold limit value (TLV) for platinum and platinum combinations at the workplace is 2 µg/m3 per day.