Selenium and Sperm Count – Chemistry Anecdotes (Post No.5375)

COMPILED BY LONDON SWAMINATHAN

Date: 29 August 2018

 

Time uploaded in London – 21-02 (British Summer Time)

 

Post No. 5375

 

Pictures shown here are taken from various sources including google, Wikipedia, Facebook friends and newspapers. This is a non- commercial blog.

There are very interesting anecdotes about the element selenium in the Periodic Table.

Selenium and Bad Smell
Selenium was discovered by Jons Jacob Berzelius at Stockholm in 1817. He saw some sediment at the bottom of the chambers in which sulfuric acid was made. At first he thought it was element tellurium because it gave a strong smell of radishes. When he came to know that it was a new element he named it moon, in Greek ‘selene’. Because the other element tellurium meant earth.

When he went home, his land lord complained that he had bad breath and admonished him for eating too much garlic. Later he realised it was selenium that gave that smell. Even the radish smell in tellurium came from the selenium impurities in it.
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Selenium and Sperm Count

According to some researchers, declining sperm counts and increased incidences of cancer can be explained by the decrease in selenium in the diet. In a double-blind test carried out in 1993, men with low sperm counts were given either selenium or a placebo: the sperm counts of those given selenium went up by 100%, while counts for those given the placebo did not change.

Selenium rich food

Foods particularly rich in selenium are Brazil nuts and molasses, tuna fish, peanut, wheat germs, bran, brewer’s yeast, mushrooms, particularly Albatrellus apes capre, which is popular in Italy.

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Marco Polo and Selenium

Some parts of the world have soils with high levels of selenium. The grazing animals in those areas suffer from a condition known as blind staggers. The famous traveller Marco Polo (1254-1324), observed that the animals of Turkestan behaved in a curious way as though they were drunk. The plant generally responsible for the staggers was the milk vetch, Astragalus, which can store selenium. The Great Plains of the USA are also rich in selenium, and cowboys of the Wild West knew that their herds could be affected if they ate vetch. They called vetch’ loco wed’ from the Spanish word ‘loco’, meaning insane.

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Selenium is mostly used in photocopying machines, Glass industry, paint pigments etc . It has got two rare qualities, It exists in two forms— as metal and powder.
When light falls on it, it conducts electricity 1000 times better and so it is used light meters, solar cells etc

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Super Markets emptied Shelves

Although selenium is itself toxic in low doses, it can counter the effects of other toxins, especially cadmium, mercury, arsenic and thallium and is known as an antagonist for these metals. Tuna fish which accumulates higher than expected levels of mercury, is thought to be safe to eat because this fish protects itself by taking an atom of selenium for every mercury atom it absorbs.

In the 1970s there was a food scare in the USA when analysis of canned tuna fish revealed high levels mercury which were assumed to be caused by environmental pollution. Overnight canned tuna disappeared from super market shelves, and millions of cans were destroyed. Then, analysis of a sample of tuna from a nineteenth century sample that had been preserved in a museum display case showed the same level of mercury- and both showed a protective level of selenium. The protective role of selenium appears to be true for other marine animals such as seals, and may also be the way in which the men who work in mercury mines gain some protection from this dangerous metal.

The idea of using selenium in television failed. They thought selenium’s special property of conducting electricity could help but it did not work as expected.

 

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Chemical Properties and Diseases due to Deficiency

 

SELENEUM

SYMBOL –Se

ATOMIC NUMBER 34

ATOMIC WEIGHT- 78-96

MELTING POINT 217 C

BOILING POINT 685 C

OXIDE- SeO2

DEFICIENCY CAUSES- INFERTILITY, HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE, ANAEMIA, CANCER, ARHRITIS, PRE MATURE AGING, MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY, MULTIPLE SCEROSIS

DISCOVERED BY JONS JACOB BERZELIUS IN 1817 (STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN)

Xxxx  SUBHAM xxx

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