The Disappearing Spoon Project

Lenora Beard - Chapter 9 ( Poisoner's Corridor: "Ouch-Ouch")


Chapter nine discussed some of the most poisonous elements on the periodic table. They are cadmium, thallium, bismuth, thorium, and americium. The chapter begins with describing the “Ouch-Ouch” disease, a disease that started in Japan from Cadmium. Cadmium mines in Japan started to boom when the Russo-Japanese War started, and cadmium was dumped into local streams. Scientists later found out that cadmium was poisoning the Japanese citizens from the poisonous water (chp 9, pg 81,82) . The next element, Thallium is the most poisonous element on the periodic table, and stories were told of how people were poisoning each other with this element. The CIA tried to poison Fidel Castro by putting a special powder with thallium inside his socks, but the plan was never put into action (chp 9, pg (83) .

Bismuth has an incredible long half life. Scientists did an experiment to discover exactly what Bismuth’s half life is, and it is older than the universe itself (chp 9 pg 84). In the end of Chapter 9, the life of David Hahn is discussed. He conducted many experiments, but he is best known for his work with nuclear power. David wanted to build a viable fusion reactor. He would use thorium to get uranium-233 and build his reactor (chp 9, pg 86). Years later, David was found stealing smoke detectors that contained americium, and he was arrested (chp 9, pg 87,88). This chapter tells the interesting stories behind these five elements and their uses.


Element Symbol: Cd

Atomic #: 48

Atomic Mass: 112.412

Period: 5

Group: 12

Electron Configuration:1s^2 2s^2 2p^6 3s^2 3p^6 4s^2 3d^10 4p^6 5s^2 4d^10

Classified: Metal (Transition Metal)

Cadmium is named after the Latin word cadmia which is an ancient word for calamine. It was identified by Friedrich Strohmeyer in 1817 (Jefferson, n.d.). Cadmium is found in a mine in central Japan and the mountains of Kamioka. Cadmium can be found as a compound as Cadmium Sulfide (CdS) which is a yellow powder that is used as a pigment. It is also found with Zinc in the Earth's crust, but not as a compound (chp 9, pg 82). Cadmium is important because it can replace Zinc in our bodies making it very deadly. It can not be flushed out of the human body, so it can poison people. Cadmium is used in batteries and a coating for computer parts to prevent corrosion. It is also in pigments, tanning agents solders, and lining for drinking cups. Cadmium is a poisonous element that has a silvery color with a blueish tint. It also has 3 stable isotopes (Periodic Table, 2016).


Ti- Thallium

Element Symbol: Ti

Atomic #: 81

Atomic Mass:204.383


Group: 13

Electron Configuration: 1s^2 2s^2 2p^6 3s^2 3p^6 4s^2 3d^10 4p^6 5s^2 4d^10 5p^6 6s^2 4f^15 5d^10 6p^1

Classified:Other metals

Thallium was discovered in 1861 by Sir William Crookes. It is named after the Greek word thallos, meaning green shoot or twig (Jefferson, n.d.). Thallium is actually the deadliest element on the periodic table. It breaks down amino acids in human's bodies, making proteins useless (chp 9, pg 82). Thallium can be found in minerals crooksite (CuThSe), lorandite (TlAsS2), and hutchinsonite ((Pb, Tl)2As5S9); however, it is usually refined from mining zinc or lead. Thallium is found and is processed in Canada, Europe, and the United States. There are no uses for pure thallium as it combines with water and oxygen to form a black powdery substance. However, thallium sulfate was once used as a rat and ant poisoning, but is now banned in the USA. A special glass that uses refraction is made from thallium oxide (Jefferson, n.d.). Finally thallium sulfide is found in devices and is used for infrared radiation. Thallium has cool characteristics as it is the deadliest element. It can form stable nuclei that never go radioactive, it can mimic many elements and play other element’s role, and it is heavy (chp 9, pg 82).


Element Symbol:Bi

Atomic #: 83

Atomic Mass: 208.980


Group: 15

Electron Configuration: 1s^2 2s^2 2p^6 3s^2 3p^6 4s^2 3d^10 4p^6 5s^2 4d^10 5p^6 6s^2 4f^15 5d^10 6p^3

Classified:other metal

Bismuth was discovered in 1400 AD by an unknown chemist, but was later classified in 1753 by Claude-François Geoffre. It comes from the German word, Bisemutum, meaning white mass. Bismuth is mostly found in Bolivia geographically speaking, but is usually a biproduct of refining lead and gold (Jefferson, n.d.). Bismuth is significant because it will be the last metal to go extinct. It is medicinal, and it helps get rid of ulcers. It has also helped in the study of radioactive material. Bismuth is found in paints, dyes, fireworks and medicine; such as Pepto-Bismol (chp 9, pg 84). It is can be found in the compounds of Bismuth oxide (Bi2O3), a yellow pigment and Bismuth carbonate (Bi2(CO3)3), used to cure ulcers and diarrhea. Bismuth is an intriguing metal because it can form hopper crystals. When Bismuth burns, it has a blue flame, and emits yellow fumes. It is brittle and has a pink and white color (Periodic Table, 2016).


Element Symbol- Th

Atomic #: 90

Atomic Mass: 232.038


Group: N/A

Electron Configuration: 1s^2 2s^2 2p^6 3s^2 3p^6 4s^2 3d^10 4p^6 5s^2 4d^10 5p^6 6s^2 4f^15 5d^10 6p^6 7s^2 5f^1

Classified: Actinide series (transition metal)

Thorium named after Thor, the god of war was discovered in 1828 by Jöns Jacob Berzelius. Thorium is important because it is a source for nuclear power (Jefferson, n.d.). Thorium is found in the Earth's crust. It is also found in the compound, thorite (ThSiO4), a mineral (Periodic Table, 2016). Thorium is used in camera lenses, nuclear fuel, a coating for television sets, and lantern mantels (chp 9, pg 86). Thorium is a silvery metal with a high melting point, but is weakly radioactive (Periodic Table, 2016).


Element Symbol: Am

Atomic #: 95

Atomic Mass: 243


Group: N/a

Electron Configuration: 1s^2 2s^2 2p^6 3s^2 3p^6 4s^2 3d^10 4p^6 5s^2 4d^10 5p^6 6s^2 4f^15 5d^10 6p^6 7s^2 5f^6

Classified: Actinide Series (transition metal)

Americium is named for the Americas and was founded by Glenn T. Seaborg, Ralph A. James, Leon O. Morgan and Albert Ghiorso in 1944 (Jefferson, n.d.). It is a silvery, shiny radioactive metal. Americium was found in nuclear reactors in Oklo, Gabon. Americium is mainly found in the isotope, Americium-243 (Periodic Table, 2016). Although Americium has few uses, it is important because it is a portable source for gamma rays (chp 9, pg 87). It is used in smoke alarms and could be used in a spacecraft battery in the future (Jefferson, n.d.).


The Disappearing Spoon describes the importance of the most poisonous elements on the periodic table. Cadmium and Thallium can replace elements in our body making them deadly. Although thallium is the deadliest element on the periodic table, and it has been used killing spies and preventing crimes. Bismuth is medicinal and can cure ulcers and diarrhea. It is also predicted to be the last metal to go extinct. Thorium is a source for nuclear power, and it is found in camera lenses. Americium does not have many uses; however, it could potentially be used in spacecraft batteries in the future. As one can tell, all of these elements are important and are found in objects that we use on a daily basis.


Periodic Table. (2016). Royal Society of Chemistry. Retrieved from

Jefferson, T. (n.d.). Its Elemental. The Periodic Table of Elements. Retrieved from