Iron Compound Dangers
Date: July 2008
Can the element iron be dangerous if combined with certain
The short answer to your question is YES. Iron can be dangerous. Most of
the danger comes from how the iron compound is stored and used.
One of the most common iron compounds is rust --iron oxide. Iron atoms can
combine with oxygen atoms to make two different compounds. One is FeO, the
other is Fe2O3. In FeO, one iron atom combines with one oxygen atom. In
Fe2O3, two iron atoms combine with 3 atoms of oxygen. If you store rust in
a closed bottle, its not dangerous.
However, if you were to step on a rusty nail with your bare foot, you would
beat risk for coming down with a very serious (maybe fatal) disease called
Rusty iron nails and other rusty objects serve a useful purpose. When steel
mill make iron and steel from iron ore, they include some rusty iron objects
in the mixture.
Rusty objects, particularly found on the ground, may harbor bacteria such as
tetanus. The rust itself is not harmful, but the environment it produces
--Nathan A. Unterman
Iron can react with carbon monoxide (CO) to form Fe(CO)5, and Fe(CO)4. Without
doing a literature search on the specific toxicity of these compounds, it is not
possible to say. But I would not be surprised if these are hazardous.
Click here to return to the Chemistry Archives
Update: June 2012