If adamantium is indestructible that should cover corrosion. If it doesn't corrode, bulk adamantium would never leave particulates, i.e. toxins in the body.

However we still have characters referring to it as poisonous:

In X-Men #191, when confronting Wolverine, one of the Children of the Vault named Serafina claims that adamantium has thirteen allotropes, all of which are "unstable, and short-lived, but virulently poisonous."

So why is adamantium considered toxic?

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    Best guess would be catalyzing a reaction, but I've got no support for it. – K-H-W Feb 28 '12 at 23:14
  • @KeithHWeston That would make sense... – AncientSwordRage Feb 28 '12 at 23:27
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    I doubt you'll get more than pure speculation on this. – DampeS8N Feb 29 '12 at 0:19
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    At a guess, the metal adamantium is probably electronegative enough to flip the spin on triplet oxygen. That produces singlet oxygen which is highly reactive and thus toxic to most biological systems. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronegativity en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triplet_oxygen There's no corrosion involved in the process, merely coordination between the surface atoms of the adamantium and atmospheric O2. – Wayfaring Stranger Feb 29 '12 at 0:20
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    @Blazemonger: It's been mentioned in the comics that Wolverine's healing factor is the only thing preventing him from succumbing to heavy metal poisoning from the adamantium. It was also mentioned as an explanation for why his healing factor seemed so much faster & efficient once it recovered from Magneto pulling out the adamantium. Currently, Wolverine has the adamantium back in, but no healing factor, so the subject was brought up again. Beast had to synthesize a drug to counteract the poisoning in lieu of a healing factor. – Omegacron Feb 20 '14 at 2:24

This link to an old British medical journal letter to the editor discusses how even a non-reactive material can cause cancer and other health issues.

In a nutshell, even though the material isn't reactive to the body it can begin to build-up material on it, essentially a nucleation site for growths, because of a change in surface tension. You end up building a lump of biological tissue on the surface of the material. As the material builds up into a larger mass you begin having issues with tissue inside the mass reaching the end of its lifecycle and needing to be recycled (apoptosis); as the tissue is trapped inside a mass and not accessible to phagocytes (cells that break down apoptopic fragments) the cells begin to spew toxic fragments that damage other tissues that are trapped. Eventually the trapped, damaged fragments begin shredding other trapped cells until they work through the mass spewing large amounts of necrotic and old apoptopic material into the bloodstream or interstitial fluid if the adamantiun has penetrated a cell.

The sudden release of a large amount of damaged cellular matter can invoke a nasty immune response.

I may have missed a couple of the key points of the biology (chemistry is really more my forte) I think I have communicated the gist of the cause. I'll do more reading and revise.


TL;DR: the organometallic compound created by bonding adamantium to bone at the molecular level breaks down cell walls and prevents the body from making blood & plasma.

It looks like this question already has a decent answer, but it got me thinking - why IS adamantium so poisonous? The comics point out that Wolverine's healing factor isn't just fighting off a slow, gradual degradation or something. It's constantly fighting an infection to the point that the healing factor's overall effectiveness is actually reduced from the effort.

To begin with, I looked up the first "poisonous" metal most people think of - Mercury:

But the real dangerous property of mercury is its density. 13.5 times denser than water, its liquid and gas forms are highly poisonous. When inhaled or ingested, Mercury can accumulate in the body, slowly degrading the membranes of important organs like the brain, nervous system, kidneys or liver. It can cause varying effects from eye irritation and vomiting to DNA and chromosomal damage.

Obviously, this would also apply to adamantium, which would be far denser than even Mercury. But, that's only in its liquid state. Why would the solid form of it cause issues after hardening? Well, let's look at lead - it's considered toxic in solid form:

In the human body, lead inhibits porphobilinogen synthase and ferrochelatase, preventing both porphobilinogen formation and the incorporation of iron into protoporphyrin IX, the final step in heme synthesis. This causes ineffective heme synthesis and subsequent microcytic anemia. At lower levels, it acts as a calcium analog, interfering with ion channels during nerve conduction. This is one of the mechanisms by which it interferes with cognition.

Got that? Basically, it interrupts the process by which the body creates blood & plasma. Still, even with lead it's a rather slow process. A little further research brought to light an interesting fact, however - some of the most toxic metallic substances are formed by a combination of metallic AND organic components together:

In some cases, organometallic forms, such as methylmercury and tetraethyl lead, can be extremely toxic.

And then a few lines down we have:

As a result, [organometallic] metal toxicity has a very high mortality rate even when victims seek timely medical treatment.

So, essentially, the metal itself isn't that toxic in its solid form. In Wolverine's case, however, he has a heavy metal bonded to his bones on a cellular level, which is creating a NEW mineral altogether that is an organometallic compound comprised of adamantium and calcium. That, plus its constant presence without any medical attention, is what makes it so highly toxic to his system.

  • Excellent answer, filled with good scientific theories based on existing scientific ideas. – Thaddeus Howze Feb 19 '14 at 19:54
  • Thanks, Thaddeus! I definitely enjoyed researching it - chemistry & biology were about the only subjects I enjoyed in school. And maybe history, but only somewhat. – Omegacron Feb 19 '14 at 20:41
  • Any idea why this answer got two downvotes? I'm fairly new, so if I did something incorrectly on the answer, please let me know. – Omegacron Feb 20 '14 at 2:15
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    Mercury and Lead are not toxic because of their density, they are toxic because of the way they interact with the human body. As such, this answer is missing the premise of the question: Adamantium, being indestructible, could be assumed to be inert, i.e. not reactive, because otherwise it could be destroyed by chemical reaction. (Think Gold, or Titanium.) Even if Adamantium would be reactive, and form an alloy with the Calcium of his bones (spawning a host of other questions), the answer would still be misleading on the cause of toxicity, which has nothing to do with density. – DevSolar Jun 3 '14 at 8:18
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    As stated in the quoted parts, liquid Mercury is harmful because of its density. A SOLID metal, such as lead, is indeed toxic because of how it interferes with the body's normal processes. We have to assume that hardened adamantium is still susceptible to chemical reactions, since we have seen it removed from Wolverine, liquefied again, then applied to someone else. – Omegacron Jun 3 '14 at 14:23

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