|What is in mercury element, which makes it so dangerous to be exposed to?
|Question Date: 2005-06-09|
I'm not sure why the body takes up Mercury the way it does, but it is a heavy metal that lodges in places and sits around without being digested.
The thing about it that makes it so dangerous is that it is a liquid metal at room temperature and atmospheric pressure. That means it can evaporate, like water does. You know how, if you leave a saucer of water out, it will evaporate over time into the air, and exist in vapor form... well, mercury does the same thing! If you spill it, it evaporates rather quickly, thus you breathe it in, and if you get it on your hands, it seeps into your skin.
Mercury is a metal that is found in small amounts in the Earth's crust.In California, mercury was mined, concentrated, and used to extract gold from sediment in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the 1800s and early 1900s. After its use, all that mercury was washed downstream and still exists in our river systems (much of it is in the Sacramento River and its floodplains).
Another source is burning coal. When coal is burned, mercury is released into the atmosphere. It falls out of the atmosphere during rainstorms and is washed into
rivers. Once mercury is in our river systems, it
may be converted by bacteria into a form called
methyl mercury. Methyl mercury is very toxic and it takes a long time for organisms to expel it from their bodies once they have ingested it. Once methyl mercury forms,it may stay in the bodies of the bacteria or be put out into the water where it sticks to other small organisms like plankton.
When fish and other aquatic organisms eat the
bacteria and plankton, they take up the methyl
mercury, which then accumulates in their tissues
and organs. When we eat fish, we ingest the
methyl mercury in the fish and it accumulates in
our bodies. Too much mercury in the body has been shown to damage our immune system, making us more vulnerable to disease. It has also been shown to damage our nervous system, affecting our coordination and senses of touch,taste, and sight. Exposure to mercury is especially harmful to babies before they are born.
I hope you see how important it is to protect our environment from pollution. Human health is closely related to environmental health! Only by having clean air and water and safe food can we be sure that we will be healthy.
Mercury is a transition metal of atomic number 80 and 200.59 atomic mass. It is unusual among metals in that its melting point is -38.9 C, resulting in its being liquid at room temperature. It is one of the very few liquids that I know of in which lead floats (although gold does not).
Because it is a rare, heavy metal, mercury is able to bind to enzymes in weird ways that the enzymes are not designed for, changing their shapes and causing them to be unable to perform their function. Because of this ability to shut down biological metabolism,mercury is extremely toxic to most organisms.
Mercury is mercury, it's an element from the
periodic table, number 80. This means that all
the atoms composing mercury are the same. The
reason that mercury can be dangerous is because it
is known as a heavy metal, weighing in at 200
grams/mole. Mercury has been found to be a
neurotoxin leading to health effects such as
tremors, cognitive dysfunction, and other illness.
However it is mostly the mercury vapors that are so dangerous upon inhalation and just being exposed to a small amount will not cause any
significant effects. Unfortunately the danger posed by mercury has been so popularized that it seems like a very scary substance. However if you were to ask your parents or grandparents they probably played with mercury when they were little.
Mercury is still used as an ingredient in dental amalgams for cavities (40-50%)and has been found in many fish that we eat. When mercury becomes very dangerous is when it combines with organic groups to form for example methyl mercury, CH3Hg or dimethyl mercury (CH3)2Hg then results can become much more devastating. Death is only a few hours away from getting a very small amount of dimethyl mercury on your skin. This is because the organic groups (the methyls) allow the mercury to get into your skin and attack the nervous system directly, shutting it down.
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