Answer: Obsidian is toxic. However, aside from cutting ourselves with it, obsidian poses little danger to us humans.
In this article, we will explain why it is that obsidian is considered both toxic and safe.
Why is Obsidian Toxic?
Sometimes confused with tourmaline, obsidian is considered toxic because of it’s chemical makeup.
Remember, “toxic” generally means that a substance or material could cause injury or death if ingested or brought into the body in some way.
Aside from the fact that obsidian is a razor sharp volcanic glass and could cause you many problems physically if you were to ingest it, the elements that make up obsidian are also bad news for humans.
Obsidian is mostly made up of silicon dioxide.
It gets its color from its impurities, such as iron or iron oxides.
Obsidian can contain any number of inclusions or impurities, which means that it can be many different colors.
The cost of obsidian differs, depending on how unique (and colorful) the piece is.
The reason that obsidian is technically toxic is the presence of silicon and the presence of any number of elements which are also toxic in their own right.
Can the repeated exposure to silicon cause humans to suffer illness or death?
Yes, 100%. Absolutely. Silicosis, for example. Other respiratory problems.
Think about all the silicon implant malpractice lawsuits. Silicon is something humans do not want to ingest or otherwise let it run around their body.
Can the repeated exposure to iron cause humans to suffer from illness or death.
Yes, also 100% yes. Iron is a substance that our bodies need but only in a limited amount.
If you take took much iron into your body, you can suffer from short term symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and stomach paid.
Repeated exposure can cause organ failure and death.
How Can Obsidian Be Toxic, But Not Dangerous?
Well, technically, obsidian is dangerous to us. The answer to this question has to do with how difficult it is to ingest or inhale or otherwise take in enough obsidian to do damage.
Obsidian is a reasonably hard material, though it is brittle. It rates a 5-6 on the Moh’s hardness scale, and doesn’t react all that much, and is not water soluble.
If you put the obsidian in a glass of water for a day and then drank the water, there is a really low likelihood that you could consume any silicon or iron.
If you hold obsidian in your hand, there is a really low likelihood that you would absorb any silicon or iron.
If you were to even cut yourself with obsidian and exposure the inside of any part of your body to the material, there is a really low likelihood that any silicon or iron would enter your body.
The primary way that people do damage to themselves with obsidian is to breathe in the dust that is created when cutting, grinding, or polishing the stone.
The second way is to purposefully grind up obsidian into a powder and consume it in some kind of elixir.
Obviously it should go without saying that we don’t recommend consuming obsidian in any fashion.
We also recommend that when you work with obsidian in a way that makes fine particulate dust, that you wear nose/mouth protection and also goggles, because an obsidian shard (or even the ground up glass) is NOT something you want to get in your eyes.
Another issue is how much obsidian you would need to inhale or ingest to cause you toxicity health issues. We aren’t aware of any hard numbers as to the threshold for obsidian toxicity.
But if you look at silicon toxicity as a place for comparison, in most cases negative health impacts of like silicosis resulted from repeated and consistent exposure to silicon.
That is, unless you’ve injected silicon into your body, and that is a whole other problem.
As for iron or other metal poisoning, the metal and other substances represent a small fraction of what obsidian is made up of, 25-30%.
Again, you’d need to consume or inhale quite a lot of obsidian over a long period of time to poison yourself.
For these reasons, we don’t consider obsidian to be much of a toxicity risk.
Is Obsidian Safe to Touch?
I wouldn’t go as far as to say that obsidian is 100% safe to touch.
Obsidian can be crazy sharp, so sharp that you might not even realize you’ve been cut by it. It can be so sharp that it has been used in the place of a scalpel in surgery.
Aside from the blood, creating entries into your skin with obsidian gives any bacteria from your hand or riding that much handled piece of obsidian a quick and easy entry point into your body.
If anything, the most dangerous thing about obsidian is the likelihood of giving yourself an infection after getting cut by a dirty piece of the volcanic glass.
Should You Soak Obsidian in Water?
In general, we recommend against soaking rocks, minerals, or crystals in water, especially salt water. This is not because of any sort of toxicity risk.
Instead, we recommend against it because long and repeated soaking can encourage the development of cracks or fissures in the material, or even lead to the eventually breakage of the piece.
Water baths can also destroy the luster or polished appearance of the piece. Some types of materials can be restored to the previous luster by polishing, while others cannot be without serious effort, if at all.
Just wipe your obsidian down when you want to clean off your fingerprints, or give it a quick rinse and let it dry completely.
If you want to do some metaphysical cleansing, try one of the many multitude of established methods to cleanse it (meditation, moonlight, breathe, sound, earth, and the like).
Summary Wrap Up
Obsidian is not going to be dangerous to you from the toxicity standpoint as long as you avoid eating it or breathing it.
And even then, you’d need to eat or breath a significant amount over time to cause the most significant of the potential negative health impacts.
Interested in learning more? Check out our mineral toxicity page for our latest articles.