Osmium tetroxide

(Osmic acid, perosmic oxide, osmium(IV) oxide)

CAS 20816-12-0





Physical Properties

Colorless to pale yellow-green crystals

bp 130 °C (but sublimes at lower temperature), mp 40 °C

Moderately soluble in water (7 g/100 mL)



Acrid, chlorine-like odor detectable at 2 ppm (20 mg/m3)

Vapor Density

8.8 (air = 1.0)


Vapor Pressure

7 mmHg at 20 °C


Toxicity Data

LD50 oral (rat)

14 mg/kg


LCLO inhal (rat)

40 ppm (4 h)



0.0002 ppm (0.002 mg/m3)



0.0002 ppm (0.002 mg/m3)



0.0006 ppm (0.006 mg/m3)

Major Hazards

High acute toxicity; severe irritant of the eyes and respiratory tract; vapor can cause serious eye damage.


The acute toxicity of osmium tetroxide is high, and it is a severe irritant of the eyes and respiratory tract. Exposure to osmium tetroxide vapor can damage the cornea of the eye. Irritation is generally the initial symptom of exposure to low concentrations of osmium tetroxide vapor, and lacrimation, a gritty feeling in the eyes, and the appearance of rings around lights may also be noted. In most cases, recovery occurs in a few days. Concentrations of vapor that do not cause immediate irritation can have an insidious cumulative effect; symptoms may not be noted until several hours after exposure. Contact of the eyes with concentrated solutions of this substance can cause severe damage and possible blindness. Inhalation can cause headache, coughing, dizziness, lung damage, and difficult breathing and may be fatal. Contact of the vapor with skin can cause dermatitis, and direct contact with the solid can lead to severe irritation and burns. Exposure to osmium tetroxide via inhalation, skin contact, or ingestion can lead to systemic toxic effects involving liver and kidney damage. Osmium tetroxide is regarded as a substance with poor warning properties.

Chronic exposure to osmium tetroxide can result in an accumulation of osmium compounds in the liver and kidney and damage to these organs. Osmium tetroxide has been reported to cause reproductive toxicity in animals; this substance has not been shown to be carcinogenic or to show reproductive or developmental toxicity in humans.

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