the environment Mercury combines with other elements such as chlorine, oxygen
and sulphur to form inorganic mercury “salts”.
Mercury also combines with carbon to form organic mercury compounds such
as methylmercury. Mercury is toxic (poisonous) in all its forms and is
considered by the American government to be the third most toxic chemical.
can Mercury be found?
can you be exposed to Mercury?
health problems are associated with exposure to Mercury?
targets the central nervous system and brain. Children are more susceptible to
mercury poisoning than adults because their brains still developing.
Children poisoned by mercury may suffer from brain damage, mental
retardation, blindness, seizures and inability to speak.
to high levels of mercury can result in permanent brain damage, kidney damage
and damage to a developing foetus. Exposure to low levels of mercury over a long
period of time would have the same affects. Two mercury compounds – mercuric
chloride and methyl mercury – may also cause cancer.
exposure to mercury vapours may cause: impairment of vision; disturbances in
sensations (prickling feeling or numbness) usually in the hands and feet and
sometimes around the mouth; incoordination; speech impairments; muscle weakness;
skin rashes; mood swings; memory loss and mental disturbances.
March 2001, residents of a Vancouver (Canada) block of flats were evacuated
after one of them died from mercury poisoning. Cleanup crew found mercury in a
dentist’s apartment on the bottom floor, from which mercury vapours had wound
their way up plumbing and ventilation shafts to the top floor of their
1996, a United States cancer researcher spilled mercury on her hand. The
compound soaked through her rubber glove and into her skin. A few months later,
she began losing her balance and having trouble speaking and hearing. Ten months
after the accident she was dead.
the 1990s three employees of the British-owned company Thor Chemicals died from
Mercury poisoning from the Thor Chemical’s plant in Cato Ridge, KwaZulu-Natal.
1982, a lawsuit was filed in the Japanese Supreme Court against chemical company
Chisso Corp for pouring tons of mercury compounds since into Japan's Minamata
Bay since the 1930s. Since the
early 1950s, hundreds of Japanese from the Minamata Bay area have died after
eating mercury-tainted fish. Others suffered spasms and blurred vision, and
babies of poisoned mothers were born with gnarled limbs.
What can you do in the event of
a mercury spill?
the event of a spill:
Immediately after a spill,
keep all people and animals away from the spill area
To minimise evaporation of
the mercury, turn off all heaters and turn up any air conditioners
Ventilate the area by
opening windows, and if possible, keep them open for at least two days
Never use a vacuum to clean
up the spill. Not only will the mercury contaminate your vacuum; the heat from
the vacuum will evaporate the mercury, distributing it throughout the house
Assemble the necessary
supplies before attempting to clean up the spill. These include gloves, an
eyedropper, two stiff pieces of cardboard or paper, two plastic bags, a large
tray or box, duct tape or packing tape, a flashlight and a large mouth container
Remove all jewellery and
watches from your hands, as mercury will bond to the metal.
Put on the gloves
(preferably rubber gloves) to minimize contact with mercury
Use the flashlight to
reflect off the mercury beads, making them easier to find
Use the stiff paper to push
beads of mercury together, or working over the tray to catch any spills, lift
the beads of mercury with the stiff paper
Carefully place the mercury
in a wide mouth container
Pick up any remaining beads
of mercury with sticky tape and place the contaminated tape in a plastic bag
along with the eye dropper, stiff paper and gloves
Label the waste as mercury
waste and place this bag and sealed container in a second bag
Label it as mercury waste
and call your local health department for appropriate disposal
can you prevent mercury s
pills and exposure to mercury?
pills and exposure to mercury?
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