The Dangers Of Liquid Mercury

Filed under: Learn More - 25 Oct 2012  | Spread the word !

Liquid mercury poisoning is a serious disease caused by the exposure to mercury and its compounds. There are numerous toxic effects to mercury exposure. They include damage to the brain, kidney and lungs. Several diseases can be developed due to mercury poisoning, such as acordynia, Hunter-Russell syndrome and Minamata disease.


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Symptoms may vary from one case to another, but they are most likely going to include sensory impairment, lack of coordination, as well as disturbed sensation.

Other symptoms of mercury poisoning include:

  • Impairment of peripheral vision;
  • Disturbance in sensations;
  • Lack of coordination of movements;
  • Impairment of speech, hearing and walking;
  • Muscle weakness;
  • Skin rashes;
  • Mood swing;
  • Memory loss;
  • Mental disturbances.

People exposed to various levels of liquid mercury can experience a series of health problems. They can include central nervous system and birth defects, in some causes mercury poisoning actually leading to death.

The health effects of mercury exposure will depend on a series of factors, including the chemical form of the metal, the route of exposure and also the level of slotsdad exposure. It is important to know that vapors from liquid elemental mercury and methyl mercury are much easier to absorb by the human body, so in this form the metal is believed to be the more dangerous, causing more harm.


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Mercury poisoning case

One of the most serious cases of mercury poisoning dates back to January 2004, when residents in northern Nevada were exposed to such vapors. Actually, dozens of middle school children in Gardnerville were exposed to the element. Symptoms started to be felt less than a week after the event. Severe poisoning cases from mercury exposure were soon registered.

A quarter cup of mercury was brought to this Gardnerville school by a student. It managed to contaminate classrooms, a school bus, children and their belongings. Not only that a series of people had to suffer from this situation, but the state had to spend over $100,000 on decontamination efforts. The entire school had to be closed and weeks were spent in the efforts of decontaminating the institution. Since children belongings have been affected, too, they had to be destroyed.

High levels of mercury vapors are extremely hard to eliminate. The vapors have almost killed the boy who brought the mercury to school. An important part of his family’s personal property also had to be destroyed, as contamination levels were too high. Even the family’s dog experienced severe symptoms of mercury poisoning.


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Dangers

Mercury can be used with many legitimate and safe purposes. However, people are not aware of the extreme danger that mercury can represent. Mercury spills, regardless of quantity and form, can cause a series of health problems. When liquid mercury is spilled, drops are formed. They can accumulate even in the tiniest spaces and then emit vapors. 

Health problems determined by mercury will mostly depend on how much mercury has entered the body, how it affected the body and how long the individual has been exposed to it. People can respond differently to this substance.

Even though cases of harmful effects due to mercury exposure are rare thanks to the efforts made to strictly control use, they still exist.

Tragic Liquid Mercury Poisoning

Filed under: Learn More - 21 Aug 2012  | Spread the word !

Elemental (metallic) mercury and all of its compounds are toxic. Excessive exposure to this metal can lead to permanent damage to the brain and kidneys. Organic compounds of mercury such as methyl mercury are considered the most toxic forms of this element. Exposure to very small amounts of such compounds can cause devastating neurological damage and even death. This was the case of Karen E. Wetterhahn, a Dartmouth College Chemistry professor who died because of liquid mercury poisoning.


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The tragedy happened in 1997, in Hanover, New Hampshire. The professor was a specialist in toxic metals. However, she was poisoned in her own laboratory by a few drops of the rare, extremely toxic compound dimethyl mercury. The compound is a synthetic, colorless liquid used almost exclusively as a reference standard in a particular type of specialized chemical analysis.

Ironically, the professor was investigating the toxic properties of another metal, cadmium. She was only using the dimethyl mercury as a reference for her instrumentation. Little did she know that this compound would kill her. The dimethyl mercury accidentally penetrated her protective glove when it spilled. However, symptoms of the mercury poisoning did not start to develop until 6 months after the accident. 

At that time, the poisoning was already irreversible. The professor became ill out of the sudden and was hospitalized. However, she rapidly went into a coma and died the same month she went to the hospital. This tragedy perfectly reflects how dangerous is mercury and all of its compounds.


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As a result of this accident, international safety standards for gloves and other protective equipment needed when handling this element were revised. Moreover, a movement to eliminate the use and production of this deadly mercury form began shortly after the professor’s death. 

Even though this is an extreme case, caused by the deadliest mercury form, liquid mercury is still extremely toxic and should always be handled with caution.

Another liquid mercury tragedy happened in Iraq, between 1971 and 1972, when this country saw a major epidemic. Back then, 6,530 people were hospitalized and about 500 lost their lives because of this metal. Other cases of mass poisoning have also been registered in Japan and Canada, most of them involving methyl mercury from consumption of fish from contaminated waters. 

In fact, most people are exposed to mercury by eating fish containing mercury. How is this possible, though? Here is how this element accumulates at the highest levels of the food chain and eventually becomes concentrated in fish:

  1. Methyl mercury in the water and sediment is taking up by tiny animals and plants called plankton.
  2. Minnows and juvenile fish consume large plankton quantities over time.
  3. Larger predatory fish eat large quantities of smaller fish, therefore accumulating methyl mercury in their tissues.
  4. Fish are caught and eaten by animals and humans, who slowly start to accumulate methyl mercury in their tissues.


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The larger and older the fish, the higher the chances of having high methyl mercury levels in their bodies. Unfortunately, there is no way of cleaning or cooking the fish in order to reduce the amount of mercury in a meal, which is why people should be particularly careful when it comes to this matter.

How To Clean Up Small Mercury Spills In Your Home

Filed under: Learn More - 30 Jul 2012  | Spread the word !

Mercury is very useful for a lot of things, but at the same time, it’s very toxic to the human nervous system. This happens because mercury vapours are fast absorbed through the lungs into the bloodstream. People are confronted with mercury exposure when mercury products such as fluorescent lamps or thermometers are broken in their home.

Even if many of them still have such devices in their home, they don’t know what to do in case an accident happens as even a very small amount of liquid mercury can be very harmful to their health. Additionally, this substance is very dangerous as from only a single small spill, mercury vapours can linger in very high concentrations in the air.

 


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There are special recommendations in case mercury spill takes place, but there are also cases when people have to call for professional assistance. Professional assistance is necessary when larger amounts of mercury are widely dispersed in the room, on a porous surface such as a carpet, but also when people have no idea what to do when something like this happens.

To clean up small liquid mercury spills, people have to:

  • evacuate the spill area and be sure that people that were in the room where the spill took place, don’t have mercury droplets on their shoes, clothing or on something else; in case this has happened, people should remove the items and put them in a plastic bag
  • turn down the thermostat in order to lower the temperature because if the temperature is cooler, less mercury vapours will be released in the air
  • turn off air conditioning or central ventilation because these could make the air circulate from the spill area to other parts of a home
  • close interior doors that lead to other rooms, ventilate the room where the spill took place to the outdoors; they can do that by opening only exterior doors and windows or by placing fans facing out in open windows or doors to accelerate ventilation
  • use clean-up supplies such as latex or rubber gloves, garbage bags, damp paper towels, as well as tape, sealable plastic bags, cardboard, wide mouth plastic contained with a lid
  • remove all jewellery from their hands and wrists and dress up in shoes and clothes that can be easily and fast discarded if they are contaminated
  • keep the mercury from draining in the floor, cracks, crevices, porous surfaces; in this case, people can use duct tape to isolate the mercury droplets and confine them to a limited area where they are easier to clean up

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  • pick up all visible and larger mercury droplets using eyedroppers, stiff paper, as well as flash light to find more droplets, pieces of fabric or if the spill is severe, they should call for professional assistance
  • spread fine zinc powder or elemental sulfur powder on the spill site and then collect this powder with a moist paper
  • everything they have used to clean up the spill site have to be placed in sealed plastic containers or airtight, sealable

 


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After they have done all these very important things, people still have to ventilate, wash their animals, humans that were in that area have to also wash, replace mercury devices with non-mercury ones, but never replace mercury contaminated fabrics in a washing machine or dryer.

Main Properties Of Liquid Mercury

Filed under: Learn More - 17 Jul 2012  | Spread the word !

Mercury is one of the most fascinating chemical elements and that is the main reason why you should learn more about it. Knowing about its main properties is a suitable way of learning new things, as they are the ones which can influence a lot of aspects in the usage of liquid mercury and in its general aspects. The symbol for mercury is HG and its atomic number is 80. It is a transition metal, part of the 12th group, in the 6th period, in the d-block. Mercury is unique, due to the fact that it is the only metal which, in standard conditions for temperature and pressure, is liquid.


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Main properties:

  • freezing point at -38.83 °C and boiling point at 356.73 °C;
  • mostly occurs as cinnabar (mercuric sulfide);
  • usage: thermometers, manometers, barometers, float vales, mercury switches, sphygmomanometers.

Physical properties:

  • color: silvery-white;
  • conductor: heat-poor, electricity-good;
  • odorless, heavy, mobile;
  • low melting temperature. 

Chemical properties:

  • does not react with acids;
  • oxidizing acids (sulfuric acid, nitric acid, aqua regia) can dissolve it;
  • reacts with hydrogen sulfide;
  • it has 12 isotopes;
  • forms amalgams with gold, zinc and other metals by dissolving.


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To learn even more about liquid mercury and about its properties:

Why Is Mercury Liquid?

Filed under: Learn More - 03 Jul 2012  | Spread the word !

If you are interested in learning more about one of the most interesting metals that exist, welcome to our website. This is the perfect place to read more and to understand better this fascinating element called mercury. It is a chemical element which uses Hg as a symbol and has 80 as its atomic number. Although it is a metal, mercury is liquid in the standard conditions of temperature. This metal can be found in deposits known as cinnabar, which are highly toxic. If cinnabar dust is inhaled, mercury poisoning occurs. This also appears if a person is exposed to water-soluble forms of the metal or if the person inhales vapors. Of course, mercury is not only dangerous, but also useful. It is used on the production of float valves, barometers, manometers, mercury switches and thermometers. In the instruments where this is replaceable, it was often replaced with alcohol or galinstan in the last years, especially to avoid intoxication with liquid mercury. The metal is very useful in research and in dental restoration and is an important element used in lighting systems.

If you want to know why mercury is liquid and not solid, the explanation is quite simple and as long as you have a little bit of chemistry and physics knowledge, you will understand it completely. Mercury is not the best element when it comes about sharing electrons. Most of the metals have atoms that share valence electrons with other atoms, but this is not the case of this liquid metal. The electrons existing in the mercury are bound very tight to the nucleus, unlike those of other metals. The s electrons existing in mercury are very fast and they are close to the nucleus, but the relativistic effects they have make them seem massive and slow moving.

The binding between the mercury atoms is very weak. It is also important to know that mercury has a low melting point. When it comes about being used as an electrical conductor or as a thermal conductor, mercury is very poor. Because of the fact that it is mostly in the state of liquid mercury, the metal is not used in the same manner as most metals are. For amalgams, it is perfect and also in combination with noble gases. You should also know that it is rarely found freely in the nature and most often is extracted from a cinnabar.