to mercury occurs from breathing contaminated
air, ingesting contaminated water and food,
and having dental and medical treatment.
Mercury, at high levels, may damage the
brain, kidneys, and developing fetus. This
chemical has been found in at least 667
of 1.416 National Priorities List sites
identified by the Environmental Protection
Agency. To find out if you live near a NPL
site, or if the commercial building you
are planning to buy is a NPL site, contact
A.Q. Management & Control, Inc.
What is Mercury?
(Pronounce mer' cure-ee)
Mercury is a naturally
occurring metal which has several forms.
The metallic mercury is shiny, silver-white,
odorless liquid. If heated, it is a colorless,
Mercury combines with
other elements, such as chlorine, sulfur,
or oxygen, to form inorganic mercury compound
or "salts." Most inorganic mercury compounds
are white powder or crystals. Mercury also
combines with carbon to make organic mercury
compounds. The most common organic mercury
compound is methylmercury. Methylmercury
is produced mainly by small organism in
the water and soil, but more mercury in
the environment can increase the levels
of methylmercury that these small organism
is used to produce chlorine gas and caustic
soda and also in thermometers, dental fillings,
and batteries. Mercury salts are used in
skin-lightening creams and as antiseptic
creams and ointments.
What happens to mercury
when it enter the environment?
Inorganic mercury (metallic
mercury and inorganic mercury compounds)
enters the air mining ore deposits, burning
coal and waste, and from manufacturing plants.
It enters the water or soil from natural
deposits, disposal of water, and the use
of mercury-containing fungicides. Methylmercury
may be formed in water and soil by small
organism called bacteria. Methylmercury
builds up in the tissue of fish and other
organism. Its levels in tissues increase
as we up the food chain.
How might I be exposed
How can mercury affect
- Eating fish or shellfish
contaminated with methylmercury.
- Breathing vapor in air
from spill, incinerators, and industries
that burn mercury-containing fuels.
- Release of mercury during
dental and medical treatments.
- Breathing contaminated
work place air or skin contact during
use in the work place (dental, health
services, chemical, and other industries
that use mercury).
- Exposure to above-background
levels in air, soil, and water near hazardous
The nervous system is very sensitive to
all from of mercury, although some forms
are more harmful than others because of
how the body handles them. Breathing metal
vapors, or breathing or ingesting methylmercury
causes the most harm because more mercury
in the form reaches the brain. Exposure
to high levels of metallic, inorganic, or
organic mercury can permanently damage the
brain, kidney, and developing fetus. Effects
on brain functioning may result in irritability,
shyness, tremors, changes in vision or hearing,
and memory problems. Short-term exposure
to high levels of metallic mercury vapors
may also cause other effects including lung
damage, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, increases
in blood pressure or heart rate, skin rashes,
and eye irritation.
Exposure to high levels
of inorganic mercury slats can cause damage,
nervous system effects, nausea, and diarrhea.
In some repeated poisoning
incidents, people who ate contaminated fish
or seed grains with high levels of methyl-mercury
developed permanent damage to the brain,
kidney, and growing fetus.
Exposure to methylmercury
is more dangerous for young children than
for adults, because more of it passes into
children's brains where it interferes with
How likely is mercury
to cause cancer?
The Department of Health
and Human Services, the International Agency
for Research on Cancer, and the Environment
Protection Agency (EPA) have not classified
mercury as its human carcinogenity because
of a lack of data from studies on people
and laboratory animals.
Is there a medical
test to show whether I've been expose to
Test are available to
measure mercury levels in the body. Blood
or urine samples used are to test for exposure
to metallic mercury an to inorganic from
of mercury. Measurement of mercury in whole
blood or in scalp hair is used to measure
exposure to methylmercury. Your doctor can
take samples and send them to a testing
Has the federal government
made recommendations to protect human health?
The EPA has set a limit
of 2 parts of mercury per billion parts
of drinking water (2 PPB). The EPA requires
that discharges or spills of 1 pound or
more of mercury be reported.
The U.S. Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) has set a maximum permissible
level of 1 part of methylmercury in a million
parts of seafood (1 PPM).
The Occupational Safety
and Health Administration (OSHA) has set
a limit of 1 milligram of mercury per 10
cubic meters of work place air (1 mg/10
m3) that should not be exceeded during any
of the workday.
Where can I get
Contact the local occupational
and environmental health clinic. Their specialist
can recognize, evaluate, and treat illness
resulting from exposure to hazardous substances.
You can also contact your community or state
health or environmental quality department.
If you have any more questions or concerns,
Management & Control for further
Carcinogenicity: Ability to cause cancer.
Ingesting: Taking food or drinking into
Milligram (Mg): One thousandth of a gram.
PPB: Parts per billion. PPM: Parts per million.