|Appearance||shiny, silvery liquid|
|Standard atomic weight Ar, std(Hg)||200.592(3)|
|Mercury in the periodic table|
|Atomic number (Z)||80|
|Electron configuration||[ Xe ] 4f14 5d10 6s2|
|Electrons per shell||2, 8, 18, 32, 18, 2|
|Phase at STP||liquid|
|Melting point||234.3210 K (−38.8290 °C,−37.8922 °F)|
|Boiling point||629.88 K(356.73 °C,674.11 °F)|
|Density (near r.t.)||13.534 g/cm3|
|Triple point||234.3156 K,1.65×10−7 kPa|
|Critical point||1750 K, 172.00 MPa|
|Heat of fusion||2.29 kJ/mol|
|Heat of vaporization||59.11 kJ/mol|
|Molar heat capacity||27.983 J/(mol·K)|
| Vapor pressure |
|Oxidation states||−2 , +1, +2(a mildly basic oxide)|
|Electronegativity||Pauling scale: 2.00|
|Atomic radius||empirical:151 pm|
|Covalent radius||132±5 pm|
|Van der Waals radius||155 pm|
|Crystal structure|| rhombohedral|
|Speed of sound||liquid: 1451.4 m/s (at 20 °C)|
|Thermal expansion||60.4 µm/(m⋅K)(at 25 °C)|
|Thermal conductivity||8.30 W/(m⋅K)|
|Electrical resistivity||961 nΩ⋅m(at 25 °C)|
|Molar magnetic susceptibility||−33.44×10−6 cm3/mol(293 K)|
|Discovery||Ancient Egyptians(before 1500 BCE)|
|Main isotopes of mercury|
Mercury is a chemical element with the symbol Hg and atomic number 80. It is commonly known as quicksilver and was formerly named hydrargyrum ( // hy-DRAR-jər-əm). A heavy, silvery d-block element, mercury is the only metallic element that is liquid at standard conditions for temperature and pressure; the only other element that is liquid under these conditions is the halogen bromine, though metals such as caesium,gallium, and rubidium melt just above room temperature.
Mercury occurs in deposits throughout the world mostly as cinnabar (mercuric sulfide). The red pigment vermilion is obtained by grinding natural cinnabar or synthetic mercuric sulfide.
Mercury is used in thermometers, barometers, manometers, sphygmomanometers, float valves, mercury switches, mercury relays, fluorescent lamps and other devices, though concerns about the element's toxicity have led to mercury thermometers and sphygmomanometers being largely phased out in clinical environments in favor of alternatives such as alcohol- or galinstan-filled glass thermometers and thermistor- or infrared-based electronic instruments. Likewise, mechanical pressure gauges and electronic strain gauge sensors have replaced mercury sphygmomanometers.
Mercury remains in use in scientific research applications and in amalgam for dental restoration in some locales. It is also used in fluorescent lighting. Electricity passed through mercury vapor in a fluorescent lamp produces short-wave ultraviolet light, which then causes the phosphor in the tube to fluoresce, making visible light.
Mercury poisoning can result from exposure to water-soluble forms of mercury (such as mercuric chloride or methylmercury), by inhalation of mercury vapor, or by ingesting any form of mercury.
Mercury is a heavy, silvery-white liquid metal. Compared to other metals, it is a poor conductor of heat, but a fair conductor of electricity.
It has a freezing point of −38.83 °C and a boiling point of 356.73 °C, both the lowest of any stable metal, although preliminary experiments on copernicium and flerovium have indicated that they have even lower boiling points (copernicium being the element below mercury in the periodic table, following the trend of decreasing boiling points down group 12). Upon freezing, the volume of mercury decreases by 3.59% and its density changes from 13.69 g/cm3 when liquid to 14.184 g/cm3 when solid. The coefficient of volume expansion is 181.59 × 10−6 at 0 °C, 181.71 × 10−6 at 20 °C and 182.50 × 10−6 at 100 °C (per °C). Solid mercury is malleable and ductile and can be cut with a knife.
A complete explanation of mercury's extreme volatility delves deep into the realm of quantum physics, but it can be summarized as follows: mercury has a unique electron configuration where electrons fill up all the available 1s, 2s, 2p, 3s, 3p, 3d, 4s, 4p, 4d, 4f, 5s, 5p, 5d, and 6s subshells. Because this configuration strongly resists removal of an electron, mercury behaves similarly to noble gases, which form weak bonds and hence melt at low temperatures.
The stability of the 6s shell is due to the presence of a filled 4f shell. An f shell poorly screens the nuclear charge that increases the attractive Coulomb interaction of the 6s shell and the nucleus (see lanthanide contraction). The absence of a filled inner f shell is the reason for the somewhat higher melting temperature of cadmium and zinc, although both these metals still melt easily and, in addition, have unusually low boiling points.
Mercury does not react with most acids, such as dilute sulfuric acid, although oxidizing acids such as concentrated sulfuric acid and nitric acid or aqua regia dissolve it to give sulfate, nitrate, and chloride. Like silver, mercury reacts with atmospheric hydrogen sulfide. Mercury reacts with solid sulfur flakes, which are used in mercury spill kits to absorb mercury (spill kits also use activated carbon and powdered zinc).
Mercury dissolves many metals such as gold and silver to form amalgams. Iron is an exception, and iron flasks have traditionally been used to trade mercury. Several other first row transition metals with the exception of manganese, copper and zinc are also resistant in forming amalgams. Other elements that do not readily form amalgams with mercury include platinum.Sodium amalgam is a common reducing agent in organic synthesis, and is also used in high-pressure sodium lamps.
Mercury readily combines with aluminium to form a mercury-aluminium amalgam when the two pure metals come into contact. Since the amalgam destroys the aluminium oxide layer which protects metallic aluminium from oxidizing in-depth (as in iron rusting), even small amounts of mercury can seriously corrode aluminium. For this reason, mercury is not allowed aboard an aircraft under most circumstances because of the risk of it forming an amalgam with exposed aluminium parts in the aircraft.
Mercury embrittlement is the most common type of liquid metal embrittlement.
There are seven stable isotopes of mercury, with 202
Hg being the most abundant (29.86%). The longest-lived radioisotopes are 194
Hg with a half-life of 444 years, and 203
Hg with a half-life of 46.612 days. Most of the remaining radioisotopes have half-lives that are less than a day. 199
Hg and 201
Hg are the most often studied NMR-active nuclei, having spins of 1⁄2 and 3⁄2 respectively.
"Hg" is the modern chemical symbol for mercury. It comes from hydrargyrum, a romanized form of the ancient Greek word ὑδράργυρος (hydrargyros), which is a compound word meaning 'water-silver' (from ὑδρ- (hydr-), the root of ὕδωρ 'water', and ἄργυρος (argyros) 'silver') since it is liquid like water and shiny like silver. The element was named after the Roman god Mercury, known for his speed and mobility. It is associated with the planet Mercury; the astrological symbol for the planet is also one of the alchemical symbols for the metal. Mercury is the only metal for which the alchemical planetary name became the common name.
Mercury was found in Egyptian tombs that date from 1500 BC.
In China and Tibet, mercury use was thought to prolong life, heal fractures, and maintain generally good health, although it is now known that exposure to mercury vapor leads to serious adverse health effects.The first emperor of a unified China, Qín Shǐ Huáng Dì—allegedly buried in a tomb that contained rivers of flowing mercury on a model of the land he ruled, representative of the rivers of China—was reportedly killed by drinking a mercury and powdered jade mixture formulated by Qin alchemists intended as an elixir of immortality. Khumarawayh ibn Ahmad ibn Tulun, the second Tulunid ruler of Egypt (r. 884–896), known for his extravagance and profligacy, reportedly built a basin filled with mercury, on which he would lie on top of air-filled cushions and be rocked to sleep.
In November 2014 "large quantities" of mercury were discovered in a chamber 60 feet below the 1800-year-old pyramid known as the "Temple of the Feathered Serpent," "the third largest pyramid of Teotihuacan," Mexico along with "jade statues, jaguar remains, a box filled with carved shells and rubber balls."
The ancient Greeks used cinnabar (mercury sulfide) in ointments; the ancient Egyptians and the Romans used it in cosmetics. In Lamanai, once a major city of the Maya civilization, a pool of mercury was found under a marker in a Mesoamerican ballcourt.By 500 BC mercury was used to make amalgams (Medieval Latin amalgama, "alloy of mercury") with other metals.
Alchemists thought of mercury as the First Matter from which all metals were formed. They believed that different metals could be produced by varying the quality and quantity of sulfur contained within the mercury. The purest of these was gold, and mercury was called for in attempts at the transmutation of base (or impure) metals into gold, which was the goal of many alchemists.
The mines in Almadén (Spain), Monte Amiata (Italy), and Idrija (now Slovenia) dominated mercury production from the opening of the mine in Almadén 2500 years ago, until new deposits were found at the end of the 19th century.
Mercury is an extremely rare element in Earth's crust, having an average crustal abundance by mass of only 0.08 parts per million (ppm). [ citation needed ] often in hot springs or other volcanic regions.Because it does not blend geochemically with those elements that constitute the majority of the crustal mass, mercury ores can be extraordinarily concentrated considering the element's abundance in ordinary rock. The richest mercury ores contain up to 2.5% mercury by mass, and even the leanest concentrated deposits are at least 0.1% mercury (12,000 times average crustal abundance). It is found either as a native metal (rare) or in cinnabar, metacinnabar, sphalerite, corderoite, livingstonite and other minerals, with cinnabar (HgS) being the most common ore. Mercury ores
Beginning in 1558, with the invention of the patio process to extract silver from ore using mercury, mercury became an essential resource in the economy of Spain and its American colonies. Mercury was used to extract silver from the lucrative mines in New Spain and Peru. Initially, the Spanish Crown's mines in Almadén in Southern Spain supplied all the mercury for the colonies.Mercury deposits were discovered in the New World, and more than 100,000 tons of mercury were mined from the region of Huancavelica, Peru, over the course of three centuries following the discovery of deposits there in 1563. The patio process and later pan amalgamation process continued to create great demand for mercury to treat silver ores until the late 19th century.
Former mines in Italy, the United States and Mexico, which once produced a large proportion of the world supply, have now been completely mined out or, in the case of Slovenia (Idrija) and Spain (Almadén), shut down due to the fall of the price of mercury. Nevada's McDermitt Mine, the last mercury mine in the United States, closed in 1992. The price of mercury has been highly volatile over the years and in 2006 was $650 per 76-pound (34.46 kg) flask.
Mercury is extracted by heating cinnabar in a current of air and condensing the vapor. The equation for this extraction is
In 2005, China was the top producer of mercury with almost two-thirds global share followed by Kyrgyzstan. 47 Several other countries are believed to have unrecorded production of mercury from copper electrowinning processes and by recovery from effluents.:
Because of the high toxicity of mercury, both the mining of cinnabar and refining for mercury are hazardous and historic causes of mercury poisoning.In China, prison labor was used by a private mining company as recently as the 1950s to develop new cinnabar mines. Thousands of prisoners were used by the Luo Xi mining company to establish new tunnels. Worker health in functioning mines is at high risk.
A newspaper claimed that an unidentified European Union directive calling for energy-efficient lightbulbs to be made mandatory by 2012 encouraged China to re-open cinnabar mines to obtain the mercury required for CFL bulb manufacture. Environmental dangers have been a concern, particularly in the southern cities of Foshan and Guangzhou, and in Guizhou province in the southwest.
Abandoned mercury mine processing sites often contain very hazardous waste piles of roasted cinnabar calcines. Water run-off from such sites is a recognized source of ecological damage. Former mercury mines may be suited for constructive re-use. For example, in 1976 Santa Clara County, California purchased the historic Almaden Quicksilver Mine and created a county park on the site, after conducting extensive safety and environmental analysis of the property.
Mercury exists in two oxidation states, I and II. Despite claims otherwise,Hg(III) and Hg(IV) compounds remain unknown.
Unlike its lighter neighbors, cadmium and zinc, mercury usually forms simple stable compounds with metal-metal bonds. Most mercury(I) compounds are diamagnetic and feature the dimeric cation, Hg2+
2. Stable derivatives include the chloride and nitrate. Treatment of Hg(I) compounds complexation with strong ligands such as sulfide, cyanide, etc. induces disproportionation to Hg2+
and elemental mercury. Mercury(I) chloride, a colorless solid also known as calomel, is really the compound with the formula Hg2Cl2, with the connectivity Cl-Hg-Hg-Cl. It is a standard in electrochemistry. It reacts with chlorine to give mercuric chloride, which resists further oxidation. Mercury(I) hydride, a colorless gas, has the formula HgH, containing no Hg-Hg bond.
Indicative of its tendency to bond to itself, mercury forms mercury polycations, which consist of linear chains of mercury centers, capped with a positive charge. One example is Hg2+
Mercury(II) is the most common oxidation state and is the main one in nature as well. All four mercuric halides are known. They form tetrahedral complexes with other ligands but the halides adopt linear coordination geometry, somewhat like Ag+ does. Best known is mercury(II) chloride, an easily sublimating white solid. HgCl2 forms coordination complexes that are typically tetrahedral, e.g. HgCl2−
Mercury(II) oxide, the main oxide of mercury, arises when the metal is exposed to air for long periods at elevated temperatures. It reverts to the elements upon heating near 400 °C, as was demonstrated by Joseph Priestley in an early synthesis of pure oxygen. Hydroxides of mercury are poorly characterized, as they are for its neighbors gold and silver.
Being a soft metal, mercury forms very stable derivatives with the heavier chalcogens. Preeminent is mercury(II) sulfide, HgS, which occurs in nature as the ore cinnabar and is the brilliant pigment vermillion. Like ZnS, HgS crystallizes in two forms, the reddish cubic form and the black zinc blende form.The latter sometimes occurs naturally as metacinnabar. Mercury(II) selenide (HgSe) and mercury(II) telluride (HgTe) are also known, these as well as various derivatives, e.g. mercury cadmium telluride and mercury zinc telluride being semiconductors useful as infrared detector materials.
Mercury(II) salts form a variety of complex derivatives with ammonia. These include Millon's base (Hg2N+), the one-dimensional polymer (salts of HgNH+
n), and "fusible white precipitate" or [Hg(NH3)2]Cl2. Known as Nessler's reagent, potassium tetraiodomercurate(II) (HgI2−
4) is still occasionally used to test for ammonia owing to its tendency to form the deeply colored iodide salt of Millon's base.
Mercury fulminate is a detonator widely used in explosives.
Organic mercury compounds are historically important but are of little industrial value in the western world. Mercury(II) salts are a rare example of simple metal complexes that react directly with aromatic rings. Organomercury compounds are always divalent and usually two-coordinate and linear geometry. Unlike organocadmium and organozinc compounds, organomercury compounds do not react with water. They usually have the formula HgR2, which are often volatile, or HgRX, which are often solids, where R is aryl or alkyl and X is usually halide or acetate. Methylmercury, a generic term for compounds with the formula CH3HgX, is a dangerous family of compounds that are often found in polluted water.They arise by a process known as biomethylation.
Mercury is used primarily for the manufacture of industrial chemicals or for electrical and electronic applications. It is used in some liquid-in-glass thermometers, especially those used to measure high temperatures. A still increasing amount is used as gaseous mercury in fluorescent lamps, while most of the other applications are slowly being phased out due to health and safety regulations. In some applications, mercury is replaced with less toxic but considerably more expensive Galinstan alloy.
Mercury and its compounds have been used in medicine, although they are much less common today than they once were, now that the toxic effects of mercury and its compounds are more widely understood. The first edition of the Merck's Manual (1899) featured many mercuric compoundssuch as:
Mercury is an ingredient in dental amalgams. Thiomersal (called Thimerosal in the United States) is an organic compound used as a preservative in vaccines, though this use is in decline.Thiomersal is metabolized to ethyl mercury. Although it was widely speculated that this mercury-based preservative could cause or trigger autism in children, scientific studies showed no evidence supporting any such link. Nevertheless, thiomersal has been removed from, or reduced to trace amounts in all U.S. vaccines recommended for children 6 years of age and under, with the exception of inactivated influenza vaccine.
Another mercury compound, merbromin (Mercurochrome), is a topical antiseptic used for minor cuts and scrapes that is still in use in some countries.
Mercury in the form of one of its common ores, cinnabar, is used in various traditional medicines, especially in traditional Chinese medicine. Review of its safety has found that cinnabar can lead to significant mercury intoxication when heated, consumed in overdose, or taken long term, and can have adverse effects at therapeutic doses, though effects from therapeutic doses are typically reversible. Although this form of mercury appears to be less toxic than other forms, its use in traditional Chinese medicine has not yet been justified, as the therapeutic basis for the use of cinnabar is not clear.
Today, the use of mercury in medicine has greatly declined in all respects, especially in developed countries. Thermometers and sphygmomanometers containing mercury were invented in the early 18th and late 19th centuries, respectively. In the early 21st century, their use is declining and has been banned in some countries, states and medical institutions. In 2002, the U.S. Senate passed legislation to phase out the sale of non-prescription mercury thermometers. In 2003, Washington and Maine became the first states to ban mercury blood pressure devices.Mercury compounds are found in some over-the-counter drugs, including topical antiseptics, stimulant laxatives, diaper-rash ointment, eye drops, and nasal sprays. The FDA has "inadequate data to establish general recognition of the safety and effectiveness" of the mercury ingredients in these products. Mercury is still used in some diuretics although substitutes now exist for most therapeutic uses.
Chlorine is produced from sodium chloride (common salt, NaCl) using electrolysis to separate the metallic sodium from the chlorine gas. Usually the salt is dissolved in water to produce a brine. By-products of any such chloralkali process are hydrogen (H2) and sodium hydroxide (NaOH), which is commonly called caustic soda or lye. By far the largest use of mercuryin the late 20th century was in the mercury cell process (also called the Castner-Kellner process) where metallic sodium is formed as an amalgam at a cathode made from mercury; this sodium is then reacted with water to produce sodium hydroxide. Many of the industrial mercury releases of the 20th century came from this process, although modern plants claimed to be safe in this regard. After about 1985, all new chloralkali production facilities that were built in the United States used membrane cell or diaphragm cell technologies to produce chlorine.
Some medical thermometers, especially those for high temperatures, are filled with mercury; they are gradually disappearing. In the United States, non-prescription sale of mercury fever thermometers has been banned since 2003.
Some transit telescopes use a basin of mercury to form a flat and absolutely horizontal mirror, useful in determining an absolute vertical or perpendicular reference. Concave horizontal parabolic mirrors may be formed by rotating liquid mercury on a disk, the parabolic form of the liquid thus formed reflecting and focusing incident light. Such liquid-mirror telescopes are cheaper than conventional large mirror telescopes by up to a factor of 100, but the mirror cannot be tilted and always points straight up.
Liquid mercury is a part of popular secondary reference electrode (called the calomel electrode) in electrochemistry as an alternative to the standard hydrogen electrode. The calomel electrode is used to work out the electrode potential of half cells. °C, is a fixed point used as a temperature standard for the International Temperature Scale (ITS-90).Last, but not least, the triple point of mercury, −38.8344
In polarography both the dropping mercury electrodeand the hanging mercury drop electrode use elemental mercury. This use allows a new uncontaminated electrode to be available for each measurement or each new experiment.
Mercury-containing compounds are also of use in the field of structural biology. Mercuric compounds such as mercury(II) chloride or potassium tetraiodomercurate(II) can be added to protein crystals in an effort to create heavy atom derivatives that can be used to solve the phase problem in X-ray crystallography via isomorphous replacement or anomalous scattering methods.
Gaseous mercury is used in mercury-vapor lamps and some "neon sign" type advertising signs and fluorescent lamps. Those low-pressure lamps emit very spectrally narrow lines, which are traditionally used in optical spectroscopy for calibration of spectral position. Commercial calibration lamps are sold for this purpose; reflecting a fluorescent ceiling light into a spectrometer is a common calibration practice.Gaseous mercury is also found in some electron tubes, including ignitrons, thyratrons, and mercury arc rectifiers. It is also used in specialist medical care lamps for skin tanning and disinfection. Gaseous mercury is added to cold cathode argon-filled lamps to increase the ionization and electrical conductivity. An argon-filled lamp without mercury will have dull spots and will fail to light correctly. Lighting containing mercury can be bombarded/oven pumped only once. When added to neon filled tubes the light produced will be inconsistent red/blue spots until the initial burning-in process is completed; eventually it will light a consistent dull off-blue color.
The Deep Space Atomic Clock (DSAC) under development by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory utilises mercury in a linear ion-trap-based clock. The novel use of mercury allows very compact atomic clocks, with low energy requirements, and is therefore ideal for space probes and Mars missions.
Mercury, as thiomersal, is widely used in the manufacture of mascara. In 2008, Minnesota became the first state in the United States to ban intentionally added mercury in cosmetics, giving it a tougher standard than the federal government.
A study in geometric mean urine mercury concentration identified a previously unrecognized source of exposure (skin care products) to inorganic mercury among New York City residents. Population-based biomonitoring also showed that mercury concentration levels are higher in consumers of seafood and fish meals.
Mercury(II) fulminate is a primary explosive which is mainly used as a primer of a cartridge in firearms.
Many historic applications made use of the peculiar physical properties of mercury, especially as a dense liquid and a liquid metal:
Other applications made use of the chemical properties of mercury:
Mercury(I) chloride (also known as calomel or mercurous chloride) has been used in traditional medicine as a diuretic, topical disinfectant, and laxative. Mercury(II) chloride (also known as mercuric chloride or corrosive sublimate) was once used to treat syphilis (along with other mercury compounds), although it is so toxic that sometimes the symptoms of its toxicity were confused with those of the syphilis it was believed to treat.It is also used as a disinfectant. Blue mass, a pill or syrup in which mercury is the main ingredient, was prescribed throughout the 19th century for numerous conditions including constipation, depression, child-bearing and toothaches. In the early 20th century, mercury was administered to children yearly as a laxative and dewormer, and it was used in teething powders for infants. The mercury-containing organohalide merbromin (sometimes sold as Mercurochrome) is still widely used but has been banned in some countries such as the U.S.
|GHS Signal word||Danger|
|H330, H360D, H372, H410|
|P201, P260, P273, P280, P304, P340, P310, P308, P313, P391, P403, P233|
|NFPA 704 (fire diamond)|
|Part of a series on|
|WikiProject Environment WikiProject Ecology|
Mercury and most of its compounds are extremely toxic and must be handled with care; in cases of spills involving mercury (such as from certain thermometers or fluorescent light bulbs), specific cleaning procedures are used to avoid exposure and contain the spill.Protocols call for physically merging smaller droplets on hard surfaces, combining them into a single larger pool for easier removal with an eyedropper, or for gently pushing the spill into a disposable container. Vacuum cleaners and brooms cause greater dispersal of the mercury and should not be used. Afterwards, fine sulfur, zinc, or some other powder that readily forms an amalgam (alloy) with mercury at ordinary temperatures is sprinkled over the area before itself being collected and properly disposed of. Cleaning porous surfaces and clothing is not effective at removing all traces of mercury and it is therefore advised to discard these kinds of items should they be exposed to a mercury spill.
Mercury can be absorbed through the skin and mucous membranes and mercury vapors can be inhaled, so containers of mercury are securely sealed to avoid spills and evaporation. Heating of mercury, or of compounds of mercury that may decompose when heated, should be carried out with adequate ventilation in order to minimize exposure to mercury vapor. The most toxic forms of mercury are its organic compounds, such as dimethylmercury and methylmercury. Mercury can cause both chronic and acute poisoning.
Preindustrial deposition rates of mercury from the atmosphere may be about 4 ng /(1 L of ice deposit). Although that can be considered a natural level of exposure, regional or global sources have significant effects. Volcanic eruptions can increase the atmospheric source by 4–6 times.
Natural sources, such as volcanoes, are responsible for approximately half of atmospheric mercury emissions. The human-generated half can be divided into the following estimated percentages:
The above percentages are estimates of the global human-caused mercury emissions in 2000, excluding biomass burning, an important source in some regions.
Recent atmospheric mercury contamination in outdoor urban air was measured at 0.01–0.02 µg/m3. A 2001 study measured mercury levels in 12 indoor sites chosen to represent a cross-section of building types, locations and ages in the New York area. This study found mercury concentrations significantly elevated over outdoor concentrations, at a range of 0.0065 – 0.523 μg/m3. The average was 0.069 μg/m3.
Artificial lakes, or reservoirs, may be contaminated with mercury due to the absorption by the water of mercury from submerged trees and soil. For example, Williston Lake in northern British Columbia, created by the damming of the Peace River in 1968, is still sufficiently contaminated with mercury that it is inadvisable to consume fish from the lake.Permafrost soils have accumulated mercury through atmospheric deposition, and permafrost thaw in cryospheric regions is also a mechanism of mercury release into lakes, rivers, and wetlands.
Mercury also enters into the environment through the improper disposal (e.g., land filling, incineration) of certain products. Products containing mercury include: auto parts, batteries, fluorescent bulbs, medical products, thermometers, and thermostats.Due to health concerns (see below), toxics use reduction efforts are cutting back or eliminating mercury in such products. For example, the amount of mercury sold in thermostats in the United States decreased from 14.5 tons in 2004 to 3.9 tons in 2007.
Most thermometers now use pigmented alcohol instead of mercury. Mercury thermometers are still occasionally used in the medical field because they are more accurate than alcohol thermometers, though both are commonly being replaced by electronic thermometers and less commonly by galinstan thermometers. Mercury thermometers are still widely used for certain scientific applications because of their greater accuracy and working range.
Historically, one of the largest releases was from the Colex plant, a lithium isotope separation plant at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The plant operated in the 1950s and 1960s. Records are incomplete and unclear, but government commissions have estimated that some two million pounds of mercury are unaccounted for.
A serious industrial disaster was the dumping of mercury compounds into Minamata Bay, Japan. It is estimated that over 3,000 people suffered various deformities, severe mercury poisoning symptoms or death from what became known as Minamata disease.
The tobacco plant readily absorbs and accumulates heavy metals such as mercury from the surrounding soil into its leaves. These are subsequently inhaled during tobacco smoking.While mercury is a constituent of tobacco smoke, studies have largely failed to discover a significant correlation between smoking and Hg uptake by humans compared to sources such as occupational exposure, fish consumption, and amalgam tooth fillings.
Sediments within large urban-industrial estuaries act as an important sink for point source and diffuse mercury pollution within catchments. mg/kg with mean of 2.10 mg/kg and median of 0.85 mg/kg (n=351). The highest mercury concentrations were shown to occur in and around the city of London in association with fine grain muds and high total organic carbon content. The strong affinity of mercury for carbon rich sediments has also been observed in salt marsh sediments of the River Mersey mean of 2 mg/kg up to 5 mg/kg. These concentrations are far higher than those shown in salt marsh river creek sediments of New Jersey and mangroves of Southern China which exhibit low mercury concentrations of about 0.2 mg/kg.A 2015 study of foreshore sediments from the Thames estuary measured total mercury at 0.01 to 12.07
Due to the health effects of mercury exposure, industrial and commercial uses are regulated in many countries. The World Health Organization, OSHA, and NIOSH all treat mercury as an occupational hazard, and have established specific occupational exposure limits. Environmental releases and disposal of mercury are regulated in the U.S. primarily by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
Fish and shellfish have a natural tendency to concentrate mercury in their bodies, often in the form of methylmercury, a highly toxic organic compound of mercury. Species of fish that are high on the food chain, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, bluefin tuna, albacore tuna, and tilefish contain higher concentrations of mercury than others. Because mercury and methylmercury are fat soluble, they primarily accumulate in the viscera, although they are also found throughout the muscle tissue.Mercury presence in fish muscles can be studied using non-lethal muscle biopsies. Mercury present in prey fish accumulates in the predator that consumes them. Since fish are less efficient at depurating than accumulating methylmercury, methylmercury concentrations in the fish tissue increase over time. Thus species that are high on the food chain amass body burdens of mercury that can be ten times higher than the species they consume. This process is called biomagnification. Mercury poisoning happened this way in Minamata, Japan, now called Minamata disease.
Some facial creams contain dangerous levels of mercury. Most contain comparatively non-toxic inorganic mercury, but products containing highly toxic organic mercury have been encountered.
Toxic effects include damage to the brain, kidneys and lungs. Mercury poisoning can result in several diseases, including acrodynia (pink disease), Hunter-Russell syndrome, and Minamata disease.
Symptoms typically include sensory impairment (vision, hearing, speech), disturbed sensation and a lack of coordination. The type and degree of symptoms exhibited depend upon the individual toxin, the dose, and the method and duration of exposure. Case–control studies have shown effects such as tremors, impaired cognitive skills, and sleep disturbance in workers with chronic exposure to mercury vapor even at low concentrations in the range 0.7–42 μg/m3. A study has shown that acute exposure (4–8 hours) to calculated elemental mercury levels of 1.1 to 44 mg/m3 resulted in chest pain, dyspnea, cough, hemoptysis, impairment of pulmonary function, and evidence of interstitial pneumonitis. Acute exposure to mercury vapor has been shown to result in profound central nervous system effects, including psychotic reactions characterized by delirium, hallucinations, and suicidal tendency. Occupational exposure has resulted in broad-ranging functional disturbance, including erethism, irritability, excitability, excessive shyness, and insomnia. With continuing exposure, a fine tremor develops and may escalate to violent muscular spasms. Tremor initially involves the hands and later spreads to the eyelids, lips, and tongue. Long-term, low-level exposure has been associated with more subtle symptoms of erethism, including fatigue, irritability, loss of memory, vivid dreams and depression.
Research on the treatment of mercury poisoning is limited. Currently available drugs for acute mercurial poisoning include chelators N-acetyl-D, L-penicillamine (NAP), British Anti-Lewisite (BAL), 2,3-dimercapto-1-propanesulfonic acid (DMPS), and dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA). In one small study including 11 construction workers exposed to elemental mercury, patients were treated with DMSA and NAP.Chelation therapy with both drugs resulted in the mobilization of a small fraction of the total estimated body mercury. DMSA was able to increase the excretion of mercury to a greater extent than NAP.
140 countries agreed in the Minamata Convention on Mercury by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to prevent emissions.The convention was signed on 10 October 2013.
In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency is charged with regulating and managing mercury contamination. Several laws give the EPA this authority, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act. Additionally, the Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act, passed in 1996, phases out the use of mercury in batteries, and provides for the efficient and cost-effective disposal of many types of used batteries.North America contributed approximately 11% of the total global anthropogenic mercury emissions in 1995.
The United States Clean Air Act, passed in 1990, put mercury on a list of toxic pollutants that need to be controlled to the greatest possible extent. Thus, industries that release high concentrations of mercury into the environment agreed to install maximum achievable control technologies (MACT). In March 2005, the EPA promulgated a regulationthat added power plants to the list of sources that should be controlled and instituted a national cap and trade system. States were given until November 2006 to impose stricter controls, but after a legal challenge from several states, the regulations were struck down by a federal appeals court on 8 February 2008. The rule was deemed not sufficient to protect the health of persons living near coal-fired power plants, given the negative effects documented in the EPA Study Report to Congress of 1998. However newer data published in 2015 showed that after introduction of the stricter controls mercury declined sharply, indicating that the Clean Air Act had its intended impact.
The EPA announced new rules for coal-fired power plants on 22 December 2011.Cement kilns that burn hazardous waste are held to a looser standard than are standard hazardous waste incinerators in the United States, and as a result are a disproportionate source of mercury pollution.
In the European Union, the directive on the Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (see RoHS) bans mercury from certain electrical and electronic products, and limits the amount of mercury in other products to less than 1000 ppm.There are restrictions for mercury concentration in packaging (the limit is 100 ppm for sum of mercury, lead, hexavalent chromium and cadmium) and batteries (the limit is 5 ppm). In July 2007, the European Union also banned mercury in non-electrical measuring devices, such as thermometers and barometers. The ban applies to new devices only, and contains exemptions for the health care sector and a two-year grace period for manufacturers of barometers.
Norway enacted a total ban on the use of mercury in the manufacturing and import/export of mercury products, effective 1 January 2008. µg/g of mercury in their sediment. In 2008, Norway's Minister of Environment Development Erik Solheim said: "Mercury is among the most dangerous environmental toxins. Satisfactory alternatives to Hg in products are available, and it is therefore fitting to induce a ban."In 2002, several lakes in Norway were found to have a poor state of mercury pollution, with an excess of 1
Products containing mercury were banned in Sweden in 2009.
In 2008, Denmark also banned dental mercury amalgam,except for molar masticating surface fillings in permanent (adult) teeth.
Thallium is a chemical element with the symbol Tl and atomic number 81. It is a gray post-transition metal that is not found free in nature. When isolated, thallium resembles tin, but discolors when exposed to air. Chemists William Crookes and Claude-Auguste Lamy discovered thallium independently in 1861, in residues of sulfuric acid production. Both used the newly developed method of flame spectroscopy, in which thallium produces a notable green spectral line. Thallium, from Greek θαλλός, thallós, meaning "green shoot" or "twig", was named by Crookes. It was isolated by both Lamy and Crookes in 1862; Lamy by electrolysis, and Crookes by precipitation and melting of the resultant powder. Crookes exhibited it as a powder precipitated by zinc at the International exhibition, which opened on 1 May that year.
Cinnabar or cinnabarite, likely deriving from the Ancient Greek: κιννάβαρι, is the bright scarlet to brick-red form of mercury(II) sulfide (HgS). It is the most common source ore for refining elemental mercury, and is the historic source for the brilliant red or scarlet pigment termed vermilion and associated red mercury pigments.
A period 6 element is one of the chemical elements in the sixth row (or period) of the periodic table of the elements, including the lanthanides. The periodic table is laid out in rows to illustrate recurring (periodic) trends in the chemical behaviour of the elements as their atomic number increases: a new row is begun when chemical behaviour begins to repeat, meaning that elements with similar behaviour fall into the same vertical columns. The sixth period contains 32 elements, tied for the most with period 7, beginning with caesium and ending with radon. Lead is currently the last stable element; all subsequent elements are radioactive. For bismuth, however, its only primordial isotope, 209Bi, has a half-life of more than 1019 years, over a billion times longer than the current age of the universe. As a rule, period 6 elements fill their 6s shells first, then their 4f, 5d, and 6p shells, in that order; however, there are exceptions, such as gold.
Thiomersal (INN), or thimerosal, is an organomercury compound. This compound is a well-established antiseptic and antifungal agent.
Mercury poisoning is a type of metal poisoning due to exposure to mercury. Symptoms depend upon the type, dose, method, and duration of exposure. They may include muscle weakness, poor coordination, numbness in the hands and feet, skin rashes, anxiety, memory problems, trouble speaking, trouble hearing, or trouble seeing. High-level exposure to methylmercury is known as Minamata disease. Methylmercury exposure in children may result in acrodynia in which the skin becomes pink and peels. Long-term complications may include kidney problems and decreased intelligence. The effects of long-term low-dose exposure to methylmercury are unclear.
Mercury(II) chloride or mercuric chloride (historically "corrosive sublimate") is the chemical compound of mercury and chlorine with the formula HgCl2. It is white crystalline solid and is a laboratory reagent and a molecular compound that is very toxic to humans. Once used as a treatment for syphilis, it is no longer used for medicinal purposes because of mercury toxicity and the availability of superior treatments.
Group 12, by modern IUPAC numbering, is a group of chemical elements in the periodic table. It includes zinc (Zn), cadmium (Cd) and mercury (Hg). The further inclusion of copernicium (Cn) in group 12 is supported by recent experiments on individual copernicium atoms. Formerly this group was named IIB by CAS and old IUPAC system.
Dimethylmercury ((CH3)2Hg) is an extremely toxic organomercury compound. A highly volatile, reactive, flammable, and colorless liquid, dimethylmercury is one of the strongest known neurotoxins, with a quantity of less than 0.1 mL capable of inducing severe mercury poisoning resulting in death, and is easily absorbed through the skin. Dimethylmercury is capable of permeating many materials, including plastic and rubber compounds. It has a slightly sweet odor, although inhaling enough of the chemical to notice this would be hazardous.
This discussion of the dental amalgam controversy outlines the debate over whether dental amalgam should be used. Supporters claim that it is safe, effective and long-lasting while critics argue that claims have been made since the 1840s that amalgam is unsafe because it may cause mercury poisoning and other toxicity.
Sodium amalgam, commonly denoted Na(Hg), is an alloy of mercury and sodium. The term amalgam is used for alloys, intermetallic compounds, and solutions involving mercury as a major component. Sodium amalgams are often used in reactions as strong reducing agents with better handling properties compared to solid sodium. They are less dangerously reactive toward water and in fact are often used as an aqueous suspension.
Mercury(I) chloride is the chemical compound with the formula Hg2Cl2. Also known as the mineral calomel (a rare mineral) or mercurous chloride, this dense white or yellowish-white, odorless solid is the principal example of a mercury(I) compound. It is a component of reference electrodes in electrochemistry.
Methylmercury (sometimes methyl mercury) is an extremely toxic organometallic cation with the formula [CH3Hg]+. Its derivatives are the major source of organic mercury for humans. It is a bioaccumulative environmental toxicant.
Aluminium can form an amalgam in solution with mercury. Aluminium amalgam may be prepared by either grinding aluminium pellets or wire in mercury, or by allowing aluminium wire to react with a solution of mercury(II) chloride in water.
Organomercury refers to the group of organometallic compounds that contain mercury. Typically the Hg–C bond is stable toward air and moisture but sensitive to light. Important organomercury compounds are the methylmercury(II) cation, CH3Hg+; ethylmercury(II) cation, C2H5Hg+; dimethylmercury, (CH3)2Hg, diethylmercury, and merbromin ("Mercurochrome"). Thiomersal is used as a preservative for vaccines and intravenous drugs.
Dental amalgam is a liquid mercury and metal alloy mixture used in dentistry to fill cavities caused by tooth decay. Low-copper amalgam commonly consists of mercury (50%), silver (~22–32%), tin (~14%), zinc (~8%) and other trace metals.
Metal toxicity or metal poisoning is the toxic effect of certain metals in certain forms and doses on life. Some metals are toxic when they form poisonous soluble compounds. Certain metals have no biological role, i.e. are not essential minerals, or are toxic when in a certain form. In the case of lead, any measurable amount may have negative health effects. Often heavy metals are thought as synonymous, but lighter metals may also be toxic in certain circumstances, such as beryllium and lithium. Not all heavy metals are particularly toxic, and some are essential, such as iron. The definition may also include trace elements when in abnormally high doses may be toxic. An option for treatment of metal poisoning may be chelation therapy, which is a technique which involves the administration of chelation agents to remove metals from the body.
An amalgam is an alloy of mercury with another metal. It may be a liquid, a soft paste or a solid, depending upon the proportion of mercury. These alloys are formed through metallic bonding, with the electrostatic attractive force of the conduction electrons working to bind all the positively charged metal ions together into a crystal lattice structure. Almost all metals can form amalgams with mercury, the notable exceptions being iron, platinum, tungsten, and tantalum. Silver-mercury amalgams are important in dentistry, and gold-mercury amalgam is used in the extraction of gold from ore. Dentistry has used alloys of mercury with metals such as silver, copper, indium, tin and zinc.
Fish and shellfish concentrate mercury in their bodies, often in the form of methylmercury, a highly toxic organomercury compound. Fish products have been shown to contain varying amounts of heavy metals, particularly mercury and fat-soluble pollutants from water pollution. Species of fish that are long-lived and high on the food chain, such as marlin, tuna, shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish contain higher concentrations of mercury than others.
Mercury regulation in the United States limit the maximum concentrations of mercury (Hg) that is permitted in air, water, soil, food and drugs. The regulations are promulgated by agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as a variety of state and local authorities. EPA published the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) regulation in 2012; the first federal standards requiring power plants to limit emissions of mercury and other toxic gases.
Hurair Vasken Aposhian was a Ph.D. toxicologist and an emeritus professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of Arizona, a post he held beginning in 1975. He is also a former professor of pharmacology at the medical school at said university. He received his bachelor's degree in chemistry, at Brown University, 1948. He received a master's degree and a PhD in physiological chemistry at the University of Rochester, where he published some scientific studies about the synthesis of isoalloxazine ring-containing compounds. He did a postdoctoral with Nobel Laureate Arthur Kornberg in the department of biochemistry at Stanford University School of Medicine. He has done sabbatical scholar-in-residence at MIT and at the University of California at San Diego. He is best known for his pioneering work on Succimer and Unithiol in the treatment of arsenic, mercury, lead and other heavy metals leading to FDA approval of succimer in childhood lead poisoning at levels over 40 ug/dl. Previous posts he had held include at Vanderbilt, Tufts University, and the University of Maryland. His views about mercury in vaccines and in dental amalgams go against the consensus of the medical community and are controversial.
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