Argon is an element that is found naturally. It is the third most common element in air, after oxygen and nitrogen, and makes up 0.993 per cent of air. Argon is also available commercially in pressurised canisters. It has several practical uses, and is known for being nonreactive, which makes it suitable for containing highly reactive materials. Argon poses few health hazards and has little effect on humans or the environment.
Argon is one of the noble gases on the periodic table. On an atomic level, this means that argon has a complete outer electron shell. In practical terms, this means that argon is completely non-reactive. There is only one known compound that contains argon; it is artificially created and highly unstable. Argon does not have an effect on any known material and is nonflammable, which makes it ideal for safely working with highly reactive or flammable materials.
Effects on Human Health
Argon is a natural part of the air on earth and is not toxic. It is colourless, odourless and nonflammable and generally poses no risk to human health when found under normal conditions. Argon is slightly soluble in water and can be found in water supplies. Since humans regularly absorb argon via inhalation and ingestion, argon is commonly found in humans but is not a nutrient or essential to survival or good health.
Effects on the Environment
Argon has no known environmental hazards. It does not cause atmospheric harm, does not deplete ozone and is not known to pose risks to marine environments. No known organisms require argon for biological function, although it is found in many organisms and is absorbed by some bacteria. Argon does not react with any chemicals in nature.
In commercial settings, argon has potential hazards. Inhaling argon can cause dizziness, loss of consciousness, headache and, in severe cases, asphyxia. Liquid argon can also cause frostbite. These hazards are caused by loss of containment of pressurised argon. A break in containment can cause the air immediately around a container to become saturated with argon, which can prevent anyone nearby from obtaining adequate oxygen. Liquid argon is also extremely cold, leading to frostbite on exposure.
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