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Mercury

Mercury is a naturally occurring metal. Liquid mercury is shiny and silver-white. It is odorless. Most people have seen liquid mercury sometime during their life in thermometers and barometers.

It is used in blood pressure machines, as well. Mercury is also found in batteries, dental fillings, outdoor lighting, neon signs, and camera equipment.

You might be exposed to liquid mercury by:

  • Breaking a thermometer or other mercury containing instrument in your home.

  • Breathing vapors in air from mercury spills, incinerators, and industries that burn mercury containing fuels.

  • The release of mercury from dental work and medical treatments.

  • Breathing contaminated workplace air or through skin contact during use in the workplace. Workplaces that commonly use mercury include dental, health services and chemical industries.

  • Practicing rituals that include mercury, such as some religious ceremonies.

  • Using mercury to treat stomach problems.

Can liquid mercury make me ill? Because people are so different, this depends on several factors:

  • How much mercury gets into your body.

  • How the mercury entered your body.

  • How long you are exposed to the mercury.

  • How your body reacts to the mercury.

Liquid mercury is most harmful when it is inhaled. The amount of liquid mercury in the air is much greater when the air temperature is above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Liquid mercury that is swallowed passes through the body. It is not absorbed. The nervous system is very sensitive to mercury. Exposure to high levels of liquid mercury can permanently harm the brain or kidneys. If a pregnant woman is exposed, it can also harm her unborn child. Effects on brain function may result in irritability, shyness, tremors, changes in vision or hearing, and memory problems. Short-term exposure to high levels of liquid mercury vapors may cause many effects. They include lung damage, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, increases in blood pressure or heart rate, skin rashes, and eye irritation.

This is a scaled down version
of our main environmental health site. For more detailed information please visit our main site at http://www.doh.state.fl.us/chd/volusia/EH/index.html