Rubidium: Element Safety Profile

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Rubidium: Element Safety Profile

US citizens can be exposed to rubidium through rubidium 82 injections in Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans for heart disease. Side effects of rubidium include weight gain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting, agitation, skin rashes and others. These and other findings are outlined below.

Sources of Exposure

1) PET Scans
2) Ceramics
3) Batteries
4) Fireworks
5) Plants
  • According to LennTech, plant will adsorb rubidium in case potassium is deficient.
  • One example is sugar beet which, when stressed by potassium deficiency, responds by adding rubidium.
  • This way rubidium joins the food chain and contributes to a daily intake of 1 mg up to 5 mg.

Health Effects

  • The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the paper "Provisional Peer-Reviewed Toxicity Values for Rubidium Compounds" in 2016 listing acute and subchronic effects of exposure to the element.
  • Short-term effects in humans at 2.6-10.3 dosimetry (oral doses expressed as ADD or mg/kg-day) include weight gain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting, excitement or agitation, and polyuria.
  • At 5.1 and 10.3 dosimetry, short-term effects include skin rashes and diarrhea.
  • At 14.3 or 21.4 dosimetry, short-term effects include change in EEG and temporary slowing of pulse.
  • Sub-chronic effects in rat subjects at 0 to 2,000 dosimetry include death (dependent on dose and time), congested liver, bronchitis or bronchopneumonia and kidney congestion.
  • At 167 to 500 dosimetry, subchronic side effects to rats include convulsive seizures in response to sound and light.
  • At 0 to 564 dosimetry, subchronic effects to rats include death, convulsions, and reduced weight gain.
  • The full table of side effects for rubidium chloride at varying levels can be reviewed here (pp. 7-12, 24).
  • lists the following side effects of rubidium (incidence not known): "Bleeding, blistering, burning, coldness, discoloration of skin, feeling of pressure, hives, infection, inflammation, itching, lumps, numbness, pain, rash, redness, scarring, soreness, stinging, swelling, tenderness, tingling, ulceration, or warmth at the injection site."
  • LennTech lists the following effects of overexposure to rubidium: inability to gain weight, ataxia, nervousness, skin ulcers, and hyper irritation.
  • Heart conditions and potassium imbalance may also be aggravated by exposure to rubidium.

  • "Rubidium salts are used in glasses and ceramics and in fireworks to give them a purple colour."
  • "Signs and symptoms of overexposure: skin and eye burns. Failure to gain weight, ataxia, hyper irritation, skin ulcers, and extreme nervousness. "
  • "Medical condition aggravated by exposure: heart patients, potassium imbalance."
  • "Plant will adsorb rubidium quite quickly. When stresses by deficiency of potassium some plants, such as sugar beet, will respond to the addition of rubidium. In this way rubidium enters the food chain and so contributes to a daily intake of between 1 and 5 mg."
  • "[4/29/2019] FDA is aware of recent incidents that caused excess radiation exposure to patients due to user error with certain systems used to produce rubidium Rb 82 injection for use with Positron Emission Tomography (PET) myocardial (heart) perfusion imaging scans."
  • "As a result, the agency is requiring Safety Labeling Changes, including a Boxed Warning, on the labels of rubidium 82 generators, reminding systems users to use the correct solution to elute the generator (solution to extract Rubidium 82 from the generator) and carefully follow safety procedures for the system."
  • "The two systems used in these imaging scans, CardioGen-82 and Ruby-Fill (rubidium Rb 82 generator) require additive- free 0.9% Sodium Chloride Injection USP to safely elute the system. "
  • " These radioisotopes of strontium then “break through” into the rubidium injection administered to patients. The strontium isotopes can deposit high levels of radioactivity in organs including the bone, which can lead to suppressed bone marrow function and suppression of the immune system. "