Biological Trace Element Research

, Volume 55, Issue 3, pp 231–239 | Cite as

Biochemistry of tellurium

  • Andrew Taylor


Tellurium (Te) demonstrates properties similar to those of elements known to be toxic to humans, and has applications in industrial processes, which are rapidly growing in importance and scale. It is relevant, therefore, to consider the tellurium physiology, toxicity, and methods for monitoring the element in biological and environmental specimens. Animal studies suggest that up to 25% of orally administered tellurium is absorbed in the gut. There is a biphasic elimination from the circulation with loss of about 50% within a short period,t 1/2=0.81 d, and slower elimination of the residual Te,t1/2=12.9 d. Following a single ip, injection the largest proportion is in the kidney and bone, but with repeated oral administration, Te is found in the heart ≫ kidney, spleen, bone, and lung. Formation of dimethyl telluride is a characteristic feature of exposure, and gives a pungent garlic-like odor to breath, excreta, and the viscera. The main target sites for Te toxicity are the kidney, nervous system, skin, and the fetus (hydrocephalus). Te can, be reliable measured in different specimens by several analytical techniques. Recent work has employed hydride generation atomic absorption spectrometry. Topics for further investigation are proposed.

Index Entries

Tellurium 127mTe metabolism tissue distribution toxicity teratogenicity garlic odor 


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Copyright information

© Humana Press Inc. 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew Taylor
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Trace Elements Laboratory, Robens instituteUniversity of SurreyGuildfordEngland
  2. 2.Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Immunology and NutritionRoyal Surrey County HospitalGuildfordEngland

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