How this element discovered in Transylvania makes our body smell like garlic for many days

How this element discovered in Transylvania makes our body smell like garlic for many days

If we were to go into Count Dracula’s chambers, perhaps more efficient than hanging a string of garlic around our neck would be to come into contact with tellurium , a chemical element discovered in 1782 in gold ores by Franz-Joseph Müller von Reichenstein , chief inspector. of mines in Transylvania (Romania).

Coincidentally, this element discovered in Transylvania has the peculiarity that it can make us suffocate with garlic for hours, days and even months.


It is enough that we ingest it or inhale it in powder form so that this metalloid that does not have any specific smell is metabolized by our body and then becomes dimethyl tellurium, a volatile organic compound that is characterized by having a strong smell of garlic. , as Jordi Pereyra explains in his book Surprising Answers to Everyday Questions :

Therefore, if we ingest or inhale tellurium, we will exude dimethyl tellurium through our skin or breath and our body odor will become quite worse … and worst of all, this unpleasant symptom can last for months even if the dose of tellurium absorbed is very small.

William Reisert is a doctor who in May 1883 took three doses of five milligrams of tellurium oxide to see to what extent it was capable of giving him the superpower of smelling garlic at all hours, and this is how he describes the experience:

Fifteen minutes after the first dose, the breath had a strong garlic-like odor, and after one hour, a metallic taste was observed. An hour after the second dose, the urine and sweat also took on a garlic odor, which was also observed in the stool on May 12. The metallic taste was experienced for 72 hours, and the garlic odor lasted 382 hours in the urine, 452 hours in the sweat, 79 days in the stool, and in the breath it was still present, albeit very faint, after 237 days.

In April 2017 , the discovery of the largest tellurium deposit in the world was published , in the waters of the Canary Islands (Spain), in the seamounts located within the Canary waters called "Las abuelas de Canarias" (Drago, Bimbache, Ico, Pelicar, Malpaso, Tortuga and Infinito y Las Abuelas).

The deposit is estimated to hold a total of about 2,670 tonnes of Tellurium, about 50,000 times more than the largest find ever found .