What is Barium?

Barium (chemical formula: Ba), is a silvery to yellowish-white coloured, malleable metal. It is lustrous and at room temperatures, its powder form is pyrophoric (spontaneously explode or catch fire).   Barium reacts with water, ammonia, halogens, oxygen and most acids. It oxidises easily and hence, is kept under petroleum or other oxygen-free liquids to exclude air.

What is Barium used for?

Barium is used across various industries, with some of their most common uses being:

  • Medical imaging: as a contrasting agent, ingesting/injection barium allows doctors to detect abnormalities in procedures such as x-rays or CT scans.
  • Batteries: used in certain batteries, including those found in electric cars.
  • Glass and ceramics: barium can strengthen the material and make them more resistant to heat.
  • Electronics: found in older televisions and monitors, as well as other electronics.
  • Petroleum industry: used as a drilling fluid in the petroleum industry, helping to control pressure and temperature during drilling.
  • Pigments: barium sulfate is used as a white pigment in paints, coatings and plastics. It is also used as a filler in paper, rubber and other materials. 
Barium is used to control pressure and temperature in the oil drilling process
Barium is used to control pressure and temperature in the oil drilling process

Barium Hazards

The routes of exposure for barium include inhalation, ingestion and skin and eye contact. 

Inhalation of barium dusts may be harmful, with evidence suggesting irreversible organ damage after just one exposure. People with already compromised respiratory, circulatory/nervous system function (conditions such as emphysema or chronic bronchitis), may suffer further disability upon inhalation. Overexposure to dusts and fumes may cause rhinitis, frontal headaches, wheezing, salivation and anorexia.  

Ingestion of barium can cause stomach cramps, diarrhoe, nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, difficulty breathing, rapidd/irregular heartbeat, hypertension, numbness and tingling in the extremities, joint pain, fatigue, anxiety, weakness, tremors, skin rashes, weight loss, headaches, irritability and difficulty breathing. According to animal experiments, less than 150g may be the datal dose of barium, by ingestion.  

Direct skin contact to barium can cause irritation, redness and itching, with repeated exposure likely to cause dermatitis. Other harmful health effects are expected following entry into the bloodstream through open cuts and wounds. 

Direct eye contact with may cause irritation and abrasion to the eye. Metal dusts may even penetrate the eye to cause further discomfort. 

Barium Safety

If inhaled, remove the patient from the contaminated area to the nearest fresh air source and monitor their breathing. Lay them down and keep them warm and rested. If the patient is not breathing and you are qualified to do so, perform CPR. Seek medical attention without delay. 

If swallowed, urgent hospital treatment is likely to be required. If medical attention is over 15 minutes away, induce vomiting with fingers down the throat ensuring to lean the patient forward or on their left side to prevent aspiration. Seek medical attention without delay.

If skin exposure occurs, remove all contaminated clothing, footwear and accessories and if available, use a safety shower to flush the affected area with plenty of water. Seek medical attention without delay.

If exposed to the eyes, flush the eyes out immediately with fresh running water for at least 15 minutes, remembering to wash under the eyelids. Do not attempt to remove any particles in the eye, as this and the removal of contact lenses should only be done by a skilled individual. Seek medical attention without delay.

Barium Safety Handling

Emergency eyewash fountains should be accessible in the immediate area of the potential exposure to the chemical and adequate ventilation is also essential (install local exhaust if necessary).

The PPE recommended when handling barium includes safety glasses with unperforated side shields, chemical goggles, full face shields, half face respirators, elbow length PVC gloves or leather gloves, overalls and safety footwear/boots.

Barium can be hazardous in certain forms, so it is crucial to handle the chemical safely and responsibly. Ensure you are protected with the recommended PPE before handling the chemical. Click here for a trial of our SDS Management Software or contact us at for more information about our chemicals management solutions.