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.

What to Do If Liquid Mercury Containers Break

Filed under: Uncategorized - 15 Jun 2012  | Spread the word !

Liquid mercury is the only liquid metal at standard temperature and room conditions and many assume that it cannot be dangerous for their health. However, it can lead to severe poisoning which has both short and long term effects on people’s health. This is why it would be best for mercury to be kept contained. Handling mercury does not pose any risk if it is encapsulated and enclosed, so make sure that all the possible mercury sources in your homes are enclosed and do not have any leakages. If you break a container by accident and the mercury falls out, you should know some practical tips on how to handle it. You need to keep calm, since mercury will most likely break up into many small droplets and roll away into many areas.

The first thing you need to do is make sure that all people and pets are removed from the area. Pets and children are likely to be lured to the balls formed, so you do not want them to inhale the mercury, nor to distract you from cleaning up. You should also remove any jewelry and then put on a pair of gloves that will help you retrieve the mercury droplets without them coming in contact with your skin. Then, you should try to recover as much as possible by using a stiff piece of paper or an eye dropper in order to scoop up the droplets. You can also use a paper towel or wet wipe. The remaining droplets can be picked up with a sticky tape. After “collecting” them, it is important to place the droplets together with the cleaning items you have used in a sealable plastic bag.

You should then double bag it, label it so that no one touches it, and dispose it properly by calling local authorities to find out where toxic waste is being disposed in your area. Placing it in the usual garbage bag is not a good idea. It is very important to remember never to use a vacuum cleaner or broom to clean liquid mercury when it spills. Also, if the mercury containers breaks and the metal falls on the carpet, you should cut out the piece of carpet and dispose it in a double plastic bag, as well. It is better to get a new carpet than to jeopardize your health and the health of the ones living with you.

Identifying Liquid Mercury in Your Home

Filed under: Mercury - 06 Jun 2012  | Spread the word !

Mercury is a curious chemical element, being particularly interesting due to the fact that it is the only metal that is liquid at standard conditions for pressure and temperature. This metal is used in a wide array of settings, especially thermometers, barometers, float valves, manometers, mercury switches, sphygmomanometers, and other devices. With the development in technology, most people nowadays use electronic thermometers instead of the ones based on mercury. However, the sources of liquid mercury in people’s homes are multiple and diverse. As this metal can lead to serious poisoning, it is important to know how to identify it in your home. Mercury is a liquid metal that has a shiny, silvery appearance, being highly reflective.

Being exposed to large mercury doses for an extensive period of time can affect the nervous system and kidneys. Exposure to mercury can also lead to anxiety, depression, memory problems and poor coordination. In people’s homes, mercury is found in a liquid state, since it melts at temperatures of above -38 Celsius degrees. The first thing you need to do is inspect products in your home that either have or are likely to have mercury in them. Check items such as fluorescent light bulbs, electrical switches (such as thermostats controlling heating and air conditioning), thermometers, and float switches. There is also the chance of batteries containing mercury, so make sure you check them, as well. Mercury can also be found in paintings, inks, and antiques such as barometers, grandfather clocks, aircraft calibration tools, and old medical equipment. It is also important to locate fluorescent lights, since all fluorescent lamps use a small amount of mercury.

You could also find liquid mercury in drugs and cosmetics, so make sure you read the labels and prospects thoroughly. If you wonder how can you know whether the aforementioned items contain mercury, contact the manufacturer and ask for advice. You could also ask your dentist, since numerous dentists used this metal to make silver dental fillings in the past. Last, but not least, it is very important to check your food sources. Methylmercury, which is formed as a result of bacteria in water converting mercury, is very dangerous and can be found in fish. It can also be ingested through eating contaminated fish or seafood, so make sure you keep an eye out, because it is very toxic. Now that you know how can you identify liquid mercury in your home, you’d better start looking!

Handling Toxic Liquid Mercury Safely

Filed under: Safe Usage Of Liquid Mercury - 14 May 2012  | Spread the word !

Liquid mercury is one of the dangerous substances that are used in a variety of instances. There are many rules and regulation on how to handle the substance in the proper way, although it would be preferred that the case did not occur at all. Even so, many industries base their actions on the operative processes involving the toxic substance. In many cases the actual handling is done with the help of machines, but there are some in which they are taken care of by people, who are exposed to very difficult situations in this case. Regardless of the working domain, considering the safest ways in which to perform duties should be under the consideration of the worker, as well as that of the owner.

All toxic substances should not be touched. From this first very important rule surface a variety of rules for the proper usage of the substances in the work field. Wearing gloves and other protective equipments are the bases of the whole process. These should be completed with the usage of various tools and devices for moving, mixing, transferring and so on. Touching the actual substance is not as harmful as ingesting it. Therefore, making sure that it is kept away from children, as well as from other workers is extremely important. Breathing in vapors of it can also be a major problem, especially if it has been kept in an open container for a long time, in a closed up room. Regardless of the way in which it enters the body, it can form maximum sedimentations, which accumulate in time and develop infections and illnesses. 

Handling toxic liquid mercury safely is very important for people working in the domain. Whether it is for science reasons or for coal mining, for example, the benefits that come with the usage of the liquid mercury make it valuable for the whole process. Therefore, even if it can do a lot of harm to the person working with it, its contribution to a certain process is mandatory and it cannot be replaced with something else. People working with it are trained prior to the start, in order to make sure that they know all the risks and what they can do in case something goes wrong. Knowing all the information will make for suitable work contributions and for the general atmosphere.

Liquid Mercury In Many Products

Filed under: Uncategorized - 05 May 2012  | Spread the word !

The liquid mercury is found in many products and devices. This substance is also used in manufacturing a lot of things. Nonetheless, even though the liquid mercury is useful from several points of view, it has been banned in some countries. Liquid mercury can cause toxicity, skin allergies, headaches and many other problems. In combination with other elements, liquid mercury can cause severe health problems, so a medical consult is a must. The liquid mercury is used in the thermometers and many other measure devices, but if they break, the risk of toxicity is very high. The liquid mercury has a low melting temperature, which makes it easier to be used for manufacturing many products. The liquid mercury is used for obtaining many other chemicals such as caustic soda, but also in medicine.

The thermometers also use liquid mercury. It’s true that they display the right results, being of a superior quality than the digital ones. This is useful, but in case they break, the liquid mercury will boil away, entering in the respiratory system and from there, into blood flow, causing problems. In some countries, the liquid mercury thermometers are banned, so people are safe. Unfortunately, this chemical is found also in cosmetics, mainly in mascara and lipsticks. Although the effects will not be obvious from the very beginning, after a longer period of using these products very often, the body can be intoxicated.

Under these circumstances, women who use cosmetics have to pay a lot of attention to the ingredients of the products. This is the best way through which they will avoid unpleasant symptoms and health problems. Many women have experienced awkward symptoms, without knowing the cause. The medical tests were right. Only more detailed tests have showed that they had an increased amount of liquid mercury in their blood or in a certain organ. Reading carefully the ingredients or buying only safe products, appreciated for the lack of chemical substances is the best protection against unpleasant experiences.

Liquid Mercury is Dangerous to Human Health

Filed under: Uncategorized - 17 Apr 2012  | Spread the word !

Most people know of liquid mercury from the old-fashioned thermometers. However, it is also one of the most dangerous elements with serious repercussions on the human organism. If ingested or inhaled, liquid mercury can lead to slow death. There are legitimate and safe uses for liquid mercury, though many industries such as mining and paper production are moving away from mercury processes.

Many people are not aware of the extreme danger liquid mercury when it is no longer contained in a thermometer or air-tight container. All liquid mercury spills should be treated seriously and quickly, since it slowly evaporates when exposed to the air. The air in the room can reach contamination levels just from just a few drops of liquid mercury in a broken thermometer.

When liquid mercury is spilled, it forms droplets, similar to paint not dissolving. These droplets can accumulate in the tiniest of spaces and then emit dangerous vapours. Depending on the quantity of liquid mercury that has entered the body and the period of exposure, symptoms of liquid mercury poisoning can include impairment of the peripheral vision, disturbances in sensations usually in the hands, feet and sometimes around the mouth, lack of coordination, muscle weakness, mental disturbances as well as mood swings.

People who come in contact with too much liquid mercury can also experience pain or imbalances of the heart, the kidneys, the lungs and the immune system. As you can see, liquid mercury poisoning has many negative effects. However, there are some tips on how to avoid and what to do in case of liquid mercury poisoning. If the thermometer has broken, try to clean up the liquid mercury beads by using one sheet of paper to carefully roll them onto a second sheet of paper. Place the mercury in a plastic bag and then in a zip lock container. Do no use chemicals on the places where liquid mercury has spilled, because there can be violent reactions. Always check the thermometers to see if there any mercury leakages.

Liquid Mercury Dangers

Filed under: Uncategorized - 03 Apr 2012  | Spread the word !

The liquid mercury is known for its huge toxicity. To prevent this from happening, many objects containing liquid mercury have been banned. Liquid mercury toxicity symptoms consist of disturbed sensation, problems with hearing, vision, coordination, pain, itching, burning sensations, skin discoloration, swelling. These symptoms caused by liquid mercury depend on the period of time during someone has been exposed to, as well as on the amount of mercury. The liquid mercury is found in numerous devices from thermometers, light bulbs, to sphygmomanometers, float valves and electrical switches, but if one of these objects falls down, the person who is around them, will be intoxicated.

Although today there are digital thermometers, those containing liquid mercury are the most reliable and give precise results. Users have to pay a lot of attention and make sure it will not fall and break. In the past, liquid mercury was used for poisoning and even today, are many cases when people  have been killed by being poisoned with this substance. The liquid mercury is used also found in dental amalgams, batteries, pesticides, but are we safe? Moreover, it has been discovered that even make-up products contain liquid mercury, which is very dangerous. Unfortunately, even the most expensive and long lasting lipsticks, contain this substance.

A high price does not always mean safety, so the best thing is to inform more about the products containing liquid mercury. It is the surest way to protect ourselves and the people we care about. Health problems may emerge being caused by this substance, but it is very difficult to find the answer in time. The chemical has been banned in many countries, such as being used in thermometers and other objects. It is very good that such protection measure have been taken, but liquid mercury is still used in manufacturing lots of products. Companies and the government should take care of this problem and inform population about what is going on and which substances are being used. Being precocious and informed are always the best things that we could do to prevent difficult health problems from happening.

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