The name of the element osmium is derived from the Greek word 'osme' which means 'smell' because of the ashy and smoky smell of osmium tetroxide. Osmium is the least abundant stable element in the Earth's crust and is therefore very expensive. It is an exceptionally hard durable metal and has been used in alloys for small items such as electrical contacts, nibs of fountain pens and instrument pivots. Some osmium compounds are useful catalysts for a variety of reactions and some have been shown to exhibit anti-cancer activity. Osmium has no known biological role and is not toxic in elemental form but its oxide, osmium tetroxide, is an extremely toxic and volatile solid.
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