Emergency Services-Mercury

What is Mercury?


Mercury is a metal, identified on the Periodic Table by the symbol HG. It occurs naturally in small amounts in the environment. Because it remains liquid at room temperature, it is used in many consumer products however it can be harmful to both animals and humans.

Dangers of Mercury



When liquid mercury is spilled, it forms droplets that can accumulate in the tiniest of spaces and in small pools and droplets and then emit vapors in the air. Mercury vapor in the air is odorless, colorless and very toxic.Whole families have been poisoned from mercury spills in the home which have not been cleaned up or were cleaned up improperly using an ordinary vacuum cleaner. *Note- The small amount of mercury in a fever thermometer or flourescent bulb is not likely to cause a problem but should still be cleaned up.

Health Risks of Mercury

Health problems caused by mercury depend on how much has entered the body, how it enters the body, length of exposure and how the body responds to mercury. Children are more susceptible to mercury poisoning than adults. Levels of mercury can be measured in blood, urine, and scalp hair. EPA's Mercury web site presents information on health effects related to exposures to vapors from metallic mercury. For additional information on health effects, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ASTDR) provides a Mercury fact sheet that also presents information on health effects related to exposures to vapors from metallic mercury.

Exposure to small amounts of mercury-
Hide details for over long periods of timeover long periods of time
may cause damage to:
  • Brain
  • Kidney
  • Lungs
  • A developing fetus
Immediate effects of brief contact-
Hide details for high levels of mercuryhigh levels of mercury
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Changes in behavior and personality

Sources


Hide details for Home or BusinessHome or Business
  • "silver" dental fillings and medical equipment such as thermometers, blood pressure equipment
  • some light bulbs, including flourescent, high intensity, mercury vapor, high pressure sodium, and metal halides
  • some clock pendulums
  • some athletic shoes, toys, and cards that light up and make noise
  • mercury metal sold in gel capsules used in botanicas for use in folk magic, sometime under the Spanish name "azogue"
  • mercury metal brought home from work as a novelty

Show details for SchoolSchool

Cleanup

In Schools

Helpful Links

Mercury Response Guide