Osmium tetroxide exposure might pose various problems to your health. Osmium tetroxide is a chemical compound that is also known as osmium (VIII) oxide. It appears as a solid, colorless or yellow because of the presence of the impurity osmium dioxide with a harsh chlorine-like stench. It is flammable and starts to melt at 40.6 °C, below which it starts to sublime. A variety of organic solvents may be used to dissolve it.

Osmium tetroxide exposure is extremely hazardous due to its acute toxicity and potent oxidizing capacity. The two main applications of osmium tetroxide are the biological staining of lipids and oxidation processes, such as the production of vicinal diols from alkenes. Osmium tetroxide interacts and undergoes oxidation, which results in its darkening. This might be useful information to have in case of a spill, splash, or unintentional cutaneous exposure since it can also cause oxidized tissue to become black.


Osmium tetroxide exposure may burn skin, eyes, and lungs. At high concentrations, acute inhalation may cause:

  • Pulmonary edema
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Headache
  • Coughing
  • Tearing
  • Burning
  • Death

Symptoms of skin exposures includes:

  • Blisters
  • Discolouration
  • Discomfort
  • Burns
  • Rash or redness

Symptoms of eye exposure includes:

  • Irreversible vision loss
  • Severe conjunctivitis
  • Severe tissue burns
  • Blurred visions
  • Discomfort
  • Redness

Symptoms of osmium tetroxide ingestion includes:

  • Vomiting
  • Burning feeling
  • Abdominal pains
  • Collapse or shock


The following is advised before starting work and at regular intervals thereafter:

  • Lung function testing
  • Full eye examination

The following recommendations should be followed if symptoms appear or overexposure is suspected:

  • Kidney function testing
    Chest x-ray


Osmium tetroxide has no recommended over-the-counter treatment, so if you suspect osmium tetroxide exposure, wash your body and clothes with water, remove contaminated clothing, and wash again with soap and water. Rinse your mouth out with water if you believe you have ingested osmium tetroxide. Do not consume any liquids.

If you suspect that osmium tetroxide exposure was inhaled into your eyes, thoroughly cleanse your eyes for at least 15 minutes. Remove your contact lenses if you can. For more severe exposure, make sure to ask for help and go to a medical facility quickly.

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