Background | Name | Sources | Uses | Substitutes and Alternative Sources Background
Selenium is a gray, metallic element. Its atomic number is 34 and its symbol is Se. The Swedish scientist Jons Jacob Berzelius discovered selenium in 1817. In studying the sulfuric acid produced in a particular Swedish factory, he discovered an impurity which he eventually identified as selenium. Selenium occurs in three distinct forms: as a non-crystalline, gray metal; it can form as a deep red to black powder; and it can form as red crystals. It is stable in air and in water. Selenium is actually an important trace element to mammals and some plants. Too much selenium in a mammal’s diet is poisonous and has been shown to cause deformities. When there is not enough selenium, a mammal can also have health problems. For example, sheep that graze in areas with too little selenium in the soil eventually have a problem known as “white muscle disease.” Lack of selenium has also been connected to strokes in humans. The percentage amount of selenium in a healthy human is 0.00002 %.