Some of the most useful materials in the world are the ones that you never notice. Everyday items from your television to your toothpaste may contain strontium, even though there’s a good chance you haven’t heard the name since your high school chemistry class.
A Dynamic Metal
Strontium can usually be found in minerals like celestite, and although the isolated element on its own isn’t hazardous, it can quickly become so. Like the other Alkali metals, strontium reacts violently with both air and water, burning red in the former and producing the irritant strontium hydroxide in the latter.
This element was first isolated by Humphry Davy in 1808, though the metal’s existence was first recognized by Adair Crawford around 1790.
Often, strontium will be combined with a more stable element like carbon to produce strontium’s more desirable effects without all of the fiery reactions.
Out of Date
Some of the most common strontium applications are falling out of relevance. Once used as a means to divert x-rays emitted by TVs, this is falling out of popularity as practically no new television sets contain glass screens.
However, strontium is still commonly used in fireworks and glow-in-the-dark items; its coloring is generally red in these applications.
A more sinister side of strontium is revealed in nuclear fallout. One of its isotopes is a radioactive byproduct of nuclear reactions, and because the makeup is so similar to calcium, it can be absorbed into the bones of children.
The safer versions of this element are incredibly common in the Earth’s crust, and as old applications fall out of popularity, new ones are bound to emerge.