About mercury

Mercury: general concepts

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Chemical properties of mercury

Mercury is the only naturally occurring metal that remains liquid at room temperature. Under these conditions, it does not oxidize in air and does not dissolve in water and alkalis. It dissolves in cold nitric acid and heated concentrated sulfuric acid. Under normal conditions, it actively evaporates, and the rate of this process is directly proportional to the temperature and surface area of ​​evaporation. Mercury vapor is odorless and colorless and can only be detected in the air with the help of special instruments.

Physical properties of mercury

Mercury is characterized by low viscosity and high surface tension. These properties cause two negative processes in terms of mercury pollution of the environment.:

  • mercury not limited by the vessel is easily divided into small balls, thereby dramatically increasing its evaporation surface;
  •  mercury droplets are very mobile and easily penetrate into hard-to-reach places, making it difficult to remove them.

Mercury vapor is highly volatile, and a layer of water or other liquid does not present a real barrier for them. The same can be said for many building materials such as concrete, brick, paintwork, linoleum or tile. Mercury vapor evenly impregnates them throughout their entire thickness, and is also easily absorbed from the air by wood, carpets and fabrics. With an increase in temperature or mechanical action, mercury is desorbed back into the room air..

Pure metallic mercury dissolves many metals well, thereby reducing the strength of metal structures, and forms unstable compounds with both inorganic and organic substances..

Mercury exposure to humans and animals

For all living things, mercury and its compounds are the strongest poison that can cause:

  • general poisoning;
  • oppression of the sex glands;
  • intoxication of embryos;
  • malformations and deformities;
  • gene mutation, in which defects become hereditary.

The main routes of mercury entry into the body are inhalation of its vapors with air or ingestion with food or water. The human body removes no more than 20% of the mercury that has entered it, and it accumulates in the kidneys and brain, affects the fetus if the woman is pregnant, and is found in the blood and breast milk. At a mercury vapor concentration of more than 0.1 mg / m3, acute poisoning occurs, the signs of which are:

  • excitation/depression of the central nervous system (CNS);
  • a sharp drop in blood pressure;
  • damage to the mucous membranes of the respiratory and digestive tracts;
  • changes in the blood formula;
  • altered high content of mercury in urine; blood counts;
  • severe kidney damage;
  • bronchitis or even pneumonia.

Long-term exposure to low doses of mercury results in chronic poisoning, which can occur with a delay of several years. All this time, irreversible disorders accumulate in the body with such external signs:

  • general malaise;
  • digestive problems – loss of appetite, diarrhea;
  • problems with the central nervous system – apathy, mercury neurasthenia, headaches, insomnia, increased mental excitability, memory impairment;
  • asthenovegetative syndrome – tachycardia, unstable pulse, mercury tremor of the tongue, eyelids, limbs and the whole body.
expert rtuti

Expert opinion:

There are many sources of mercury around us, although people rarely think about it. For example, these are household appliances – an ordinary thermometer contains up to 2 grams of liquid metal. Up to tens of grams of mercury is also present in energy-saving fluorescent lamps, and there are medical sources of this toxic substance (these include some vaccines and dental amalgam fillings). We often underestimate the dangers of mercury. Meanwhile, its vapors tend to poison and accumulate in the body, and at high concentrations, mercury is even absorbed by the mucous membranes. Children and women are most sensitive to poisoning with this toxic substance.
Alena Paretskaya

Spilled mercury: how to deal with it

There are both natural (deposits) and man-made (mining sites, mining and non-ferrous metallurgy enterprises, special storage sites, waste products from burning oil products, etc.) sources of mercury polluting air, water and soil. Household and industrial premises are contaminated with mercury due to improper operation of mercury instruments and devices, such as thermometers, pressure gauges, electric current rectifiers. Statistics claim that 80% of all the work of the Ministry of Emergency Situations in St. Petersburg is a source of mercury vapor. Malicious mercury spills aside, the most common reason for their existence is a broken mercury thermometer and criminally negligent treatment of the consequences of this event.

Mercury spill clean-up:
8 (812) 309-13-43


If you have a child in your family, explain to him in advance that if he accidentally breaks a thermometer, no one will scold him for it. Otherwise, your child, fearing punishment for a broken thermometer, will hide its remains somewhere under a bed or closet and will not tell you anything – as a result, your whole family will breathe poisonous mercury vapor for a long time.

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