Thallium is a soft, bluish-white metallic element. Its atomic number is 81 and its symbol is Tl. It looks much like lead, but chemically is very similar to aluminum. It is so soft that it can be cut with a knife. It reacts easily with air, water, and most acids. It does not react violently like the alkali metals. Thallium was discovered in 1861 by the English chemist William Crookes.
Thallium and thallium compounds are very toxic, so some of their earlier uses (such as a rodent poison and an insecticide) have been discontinued. They can enter a body through the skin, by inhaling dust or fumes, and by direct ingestion. As a result, strict rules about the use of thallium and thallium compounds have been created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Adding thallium to mercury lowers mercury’s freezing temperature, permitting its application in low-temperature thermometers.