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LONDON (Aug. 8) - The case of the lithium that has gone missing since the Big Bang has been solved -- the stars swallowed it, scientists said on Wednesday.
Lithium in its pure form is highly flammable and slightly explosive when exposed to air and especially water. Lithium fires are difficult to extinguish, requiring special chemicals designed to smother them. Lithium metal is also corrosive and requires special handling to avoid skin contact. Lithium should be stored in a non-reactive compound such as naphtha or a hydrocarbon. In humans lithium compounds play no natural biological role and are considered to be slightly toxic. Humans aside, lithium appears to be an essential trace element for goats and possibly rats. When used as a drug, blood concentrations of Li+ must be carefully monitored.
The discrepancy between the quantity of lithium estimated to have been created at the start of the universe and the small amount now actually found has long perplexed astronomers, bringing into question fundamental planetary theory.