I know this has nothing to do with Mercury :)
Mercury; well, I know that a friend of mine, Eric, has a small jar of Mercury. He broke a bunch of thermometers as a teen and compiled the element into a rather impressively large blob of liquid metal. Very cool to look at and manipulate by rotating the jar.
Yes, I am aware now that I should not have been turning a jar of Mercury around in my palms, reveling is such a dangerously toxic element's beauty.
Mercury is interesting for numerous reasons. It is one of only six liquid metals and is the only one that remains a liquid at room temperature, which makes it uniquely variable in it's uses. Mercury was named after a planet, but it's chemical name is Hg which is derived from the Latin hydrargyrum (meaning watery & silver). It has one of the narrowest temperature ranges in it's liquid state and is worth discussing because it is a really beautiful element. cont...
Mercury is not utilized in the body for anything whatsoever. It's a heavy element; it's atomic number being 80 (meaning 80 protons and 80 electrons) and was used throughout history in medicines to improve 'passability' through the digestive track with no then known detriment. It has been considered by the ancient Chinese to be an effective 'fountain of youth' potion and was taken to generally maintain good health... The ancient Egyptians used mercury in cosmetics and were occasionally (significantly) 'complexionarily' compromised as the result.
Then there were the alchemists, whom reveled in the idea that through molecular modification, the valuable element, gold, could be fashioned from other prospects ~ particularly mercury.
Contamination of mercury is unnatural. As mercury is one of the rarest elements in the Earths crust, it exists- because humans pulled it out of the ground or found it at the entry to hot springs or volcanoes and proceeded to fashion everything from electric/electronic components, fillings in teeth, fluorescent light bulbs and lamps, thermometers, cosmetics, production of chlorine, filtering water, other measuring/balance instruments and many medicines. Also, it is used as the preservative in vaccines (same form as in cosmetics ~ thiomersal) which metabolizes into ethyl mercury (organic mercury) and it has been speculated that this can cause or trigger autism in children...
But, a use not mentioned that has a large and detrimental effect on many humans, was it's use as a mining agent. Mercury was used to add weight to gold in hydraulic gold mining (to keep the gold at the bottom to be filtered and is still used in controlled environments for purity) and was also used in silver mining. Of course, all of the mercury was spread carelessly throughout the entire mine, trecked in and out of the location and left in abandoned mines.. It is estimated that there could be hundreds of tons of mercury unaccounted for in the united states.
So, why the drama you ask? Well, mercury is a wondrous, exotic, unique element that can disrupt many aspects of human biology. The bad news will follow shortly... The good news being that many affects, based on many studies, are reversible in most instances in which the exposure was as an adult not an overdose. Also, Salmon & Shrimp- my favorite seafood, are on the bottom of the list for mercury risk.
Mercury is toxic in all it's forms; the effects depend on how the Mercury is absorbed into the body. Mercury is particularly dangerous as a vapor due to it's ease of absorption through the respiratory tract.The most detrimental effects happen prenatal and to small children. Due to it's effects of various types of cells (essentially modifying) and neurological/central nervous system effects including irritability, memory loss, depression, hallucinations, delirium, and stunted intellectual capacity in newly forming brains. There can be muscular effects including fine tremors or violent muscular spasms as well as effects like chest pain, cough, dyspnea, hemoptysis and impairment of pulmonary function... all among various exposure levels and duration. Most are reversible with treatment or time, but in children and with prenatal exposure the effects can be acute.
Lastly, the most amazing thing I learned about mercury, was that it can combine with proteins and become an organic form- ethyl mercury. <- data-blogger-escaped-further...="" data-blogger-escaped-into="" data-blogger-escaped-is="" data-blogger-escaped-kas="" data-blogger-escaped-looking="" data-blogger-escaped-span="" data-blogger-escaped-this="" data-blogger-escaped-worth="">