Do Minerals Have Health Risks?

The following summary is intended for general information purposes only. It is NOT an exhaustive guide to health risks posed by mineral and fossil specimens. Reputable rock shops and mineral dealers will not knowingly sell minerals that are dangerous to their customers (or to their employees or themselves)!


The risk to humans from most minerals and fossils is minimal. What are the considerations when you leave mineral pieces in open display accessible to adults, children, toddlers and pets?

The greatest risk is probably with small children and choking – kids will put almost anything in their mouths, from gravel at the playground to the disgusting thing the cat brought into the house.

Some minerals include elements like lead (Pb), mercury (Hg), and arsenic (As) that are toxic. Because these toxic elements are bonded in a mineral structure, they are not that toxic. The vast majority of experts consider the handling of minerals such as galena and cinnabar to present a very low health risk. Ingesting these minerals (or chewing on them or sucking on them) poses a greater health risk. 

Do your due diligence and research health risks from any mineral that you have a concern about! 


Other minerals of potential concern are the arsenic minerals realgar and orpiment. They make spectacular mineral specimens with their shiny orange and yellow colors, and are bonded with sulfur and other elements, but elemental arsenic is a deadly poison. Please handle these minerals carefully and keep them out of the reach of toddlers and children. Do your own research to find out more.

“Bumble bee” jasper with its distinctive bright yellow and dark gray banding is now appearing in more and more jewelry and as carvings, spheres, touchstones and palmstones. The name is a complete misnomer – it is not a silica-based true jasper, but volcanic ash-rich rock that is mixed with carbonate, arsenic and sulfur minerals from Indonesia. Most commercial bumble bee jasper has been injected with resin to increase its hardness and polished.

The yellow bands in bumble bee jasper contain sulfur and (most likely) arsenic minerals. Pieces that have been stabilized with resin and are polished are considered safe to wear as earrings or as rings that do not directly contact the skin. Occasional handling of these pieces is also considered to be safe.

According to when dealing with bumble bee jasper:

Due to potential arsenic presence in some varieties, caution is advised. Avoid prolonged contact with raw or unpolished stones and opt for tumbled or polished pieces for safe handling.

Read more HERE

Two additional categories of health risks associated with minerals include mineral powders and fibers (silica, asbestos, etc) and radioactive minerals. Unless you plan on crushing, sawing or polishing your mineral specimens, the first risk should not be a concern. As for radioactivity, reputable mineral dealers will always label any minerals they know to be radioactive, and would never display minerals that have unsafe levels of radioactivity.