|What is in Mercury, 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
and200.59 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).
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
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 inat 200
grams/mole. Mercury has been found to be a
neurotoxin leading to health effects such as
tremors, cognitive disfunction, 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
my 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 you it combines with organic
groups to form for examply 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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