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Selenium is the 34th element in the periodic table, with atomic mass of 78.96. It has its boiling point at 958.15 K, and its melting point at 493.95 K[1].


It is the key element in selenocysteine (a cysteine amino acid where the sulphur atom is replaced by a selenium atom), an amino acid that occurs infrequently in proteins in both eukaryotes and prokaryotes[2][3]. Excessive selenium consumption can cause hair and nail loss, or breath that smells of garlic, whereas lack of selenium in the diet can cause male infertility, or generate a predisposition to Keshan or Kashin-Beck disease[4]. It is also added to some anti-dandruff shampoos as an anti-fungal agent[5].


  1. Royal Society of Chemistry (2011), Selenium. Last accessed 27/11/2014
  2. (1991), Selenocysteine: the 21st amino acid, Last accessed 27/11/2014
  3. (2012), Synthesis and decoding of selenocysteine and human health, Last accessed 27/11/2014
  4. National Institutes of Health (2013), Selenium Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet, Last accessed 27/11/2014.
  5. Royal Society of Chemistry (2011), Selenium. Last accessed 27/11/2014
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