The Hidden Dangers of Mercury (Hg)

Mercury was known since the ancient times and rarely occurs free in nature. What do you know about this element? This article will help you understand its characteristics as well as the effects of this chemical to both human and environment.

MERCURY is not only a planet!

When you hear the word "Mercury" what usually comes to your mind? Is it the first planet on the solar system?

Or maybe the mischievous messenger roman god who wore the winged sandals, right?

But other than that, we also know that mercury is an element, a liquid metal and is very dangerous to our health.


Let's take a closer look and understand its characteristic, applications and health as well as environmental effects of this silvery beautiful metal.


The word "Mercury" is a chemical element also known as quicksilver or hydrargyrum (came from the Greek word "hydr" and “argyros" which means 'water’ and 'silver' respectively).

This element got its name after the planet Mercury, the fastest moving planet in our solar system, because of its rapid liquid flow and has been known since ancient times.

Mercury has the symbol of Hg and has an atomic mass of 80. It can be found on ores; on mercury sulfide or by extracting the mineral Cinnabar.


CINNABAR HgS (Mercury Ore)
CINNABAR HgS (Mercury Ore)

Characteristics of Mercury (Hg):

  • It is a dense, poisonous metal with a silvery-white in color and a mirror-like appearance
  • It can evaporate slowly at room temperature
  • It is relatively stable in dry air but can form a gray oxide coating on moist air
  • It breaks into tiny beads when spilled because of its high surface tension
  • It also ready forms alloys (also known as amalgams) with other metals (e.g silver, gold, tin)
  • It is a poor conductor of heat


Some applications of Mercury (Hg):

  • Thermometers
  • Contact switches
  • Barometers
  • Manometers
  • Jewellery-making
  • Fluorescent light bulbs or vapor lamps
  • Production of polymer products
  • Production of sodium hydroxide and chlorine
  • Paints
  • Polarography
  • Pesticides
  • Disinfectants
  • Fungicides
  • Alkaline batteries
  • Dental amalgams fillings


THE HIDDEN DANGERS OF MERCURY

Since mercury is used in many household products and in medical field, we are at the risk of exposure to this poisonous metal and may be very harmful to our health. The most toxic of all is methyl mercury with symbol [CH3Hg].

Physical Facts:

Effects of Mercury to Human Beings:


  • It can disrupt our nervous system
  • It can damage our kidneys, DNA and chromosomes
  • It can cause allergic reactions that will result to skin rashes, headaches and tiredness
  • It can damage the brain functions thus resulting to degradation of learning abilities, inability to concentrate, personality, vision, deafness, and memory loss, to name a few.
  • It can cause negative effects on reproductive system (e.g. birth defects, miscarriage)
  • It can cause nausea, vomiting, hallucinations and diarrhea
  • It can also cause uncontrollable shaking of hands, tongue and eyelids


Effects of Mercury to Environment:

Not only to humans that mercury is harmful - on our environment too. Some human activities like alkali and metal processing, incineration of coals, medical and other waste can greatly contribute to mercury concentrations.

The ability to build up in the organisms and on the food chain has a great impact to environment.

Since this is a chronic pollutant, mercury concentrates on fish or animals tissue thus increasing up to the food chain.

Species that consumes large amount of fish that contains high dosage of mercury may be affecting their ability to reproduce as well as mortality, slower growth and development, abnormal behavior that affects survival and altered endocrine for fish.

Mercury is also abundant on acidic surface waters. Once mercury reached the soil or surface waters, the microorganisms will convert it to methyl mercury, the most toxic organic substance and will be absorbed quickly by organisms on that particular area.

When humans eat fish or shells that have a high dose of mercury, they will likely to suffer mercury poisoning.


Due to its distict properties, this liquid metal has been applied to many different uses over time. Mercury may have contributed much to technology and medicine field but we also have to be aware that there are also consequences when it was done or applied in a wrong way.

© 2012 Mycee. All Rights Reserved.

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Comments 69 comments

Rosalinem profile image

Rosalinem 4 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

Hi unknown spy, this is very well done. Great information. We handled mercury in the chemistry lab when we were in high school and its just amazing how it dances when spilt on the surface and forms into beads...just so deadly


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Yes us too! we performed some (dont remember experiments)..never know it has hidden dangers. Hi Rosaline. how are you? thanks for coming back...


TToombs08 profile image

TToombs08 4 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

Great information on the dangers or mercury, Spy! I knew some of this, but not all! Will be sharing. Voted up


Larry Wall 4 years ago

Well written Ms. Spy. The issues with Mercury can be applied to many of the elements. Most were not intended to be ingested. There are also issues associated with different isotropic variations of Mercury, with some being less harmful than others.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States

This is excellent information about mercury. When I was young and a thermometer broke, we used to play with it as the magnetic properties. Of course, we didn't know it was poisonous! Very informative hub.


Lipnancy profile image

Lipnancy 4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

Very informative hub for people to be aware of. It is one of those hidden poisons that not many are aware of.


kashmir56 profile image

kashmir56 4 years ago from Massachusetts

Hi my friend M. great well written and informative hub on mercury and the dangers of mercury on humans has well as within our environment. Well done and great coverage on this subject .

Vote up and more !!! SHARING !


livingsta profile image

livingsta 4 years ago from United Kingdom

Informative hub, thank you for sharing!


moonlake profile image

moonlake 4 years ago from America

Great information. When we were kids we use to play with mercury never knowing the dangers. Voted uP!


Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 4 years ago from San Francisco

Thank you for bringing this to our attention.


algarveview profile image

algarveview 4 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

Hi, Unknown spy, great information on mercury, I knew it was dangerous, but really had no idea how or why. Well done! Voted up, interesting and useful and sharing! Take care!


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Hi TT. glad you visited this hub. thanks for the shared and votes too!


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Yes, Larry. you're right. Mercury has many uses but we should always be careful because of its side effects.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Thank you for reading Pamela! appreciate it much.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

thank you very much Nancy.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Hello Tom! thanks for stopping by and reading. (+ share) hehe. Glad you find this useful.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

thank you livingsta!


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

hi moonlake. thank you so much for reading!


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

thanks much Mhatter


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

hi algarview! thank you for dropping by..and im so glad that you find it useful and interesting. thanks for the shared!


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

Very interesting, Mycee. Though a very useful metal yet it is very poisonous when ingested.

voted up & useful.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

thank you much Rajan! being aware and being careful will make us avoid those dangers.


shiningirisheyes profile image

shiningirisheyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

Spy - Your talent for writing well researched and informative articles comes through strongly with this. Your writing repertoire is as amazing as your wealth of information.

Most importantly, the light you shed on the world around us.

From one lover of Mother Nature to another, thank you.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

I was under the impression that mercury was no longer used in dentistry, at least in the U.S. I recall playing with it in chemistry class when I was in high school.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Becky, thank you for the support. your message is deeply appreciated. very wonderful.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Yep, us too Deb. Mercury is one of the element that we experiments way back. but this is very poisonous and students are advised to be careful.


Lord De Cross profile image

Lord De Cross 4 years ago

Useful tips about Mercury (Hg). We knew some of them, but by writing and reading this hub we create self awareness. Thanks for sharing such an important topic.


Missy Mac profile image

Missy Mac 4 years ago from Illinois

Thanks for this article. I have been trying to increase fish in my diet and the warnings about Mercury are daunting. I love the field of science and this article was informative. Thanks again.


Sparklea profile image

Sparklea 4 years ago from Upstate New York

Unknown Spy, WOW, what a great hub! Voted up, useful and interesting! I remember as a kid we dropped a thermometer, and played with the mercury that was all over the floor, and loved the 'beads'. We knew it should not be eaten. Also I think in a science lab, the teacher had a container filled with it half way and it was HEAVY.

I commend you for the research you did to write this very informative and useful hub. Excellent information for all, and I understand more about the fish/mercury ...which I've heard about but never read about.

THANK YOU, GOD BLESS, Sparklea :)


Genna East profile image

Genna East 4 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

What looks so pretty in its silver appearance is actually very toxic. And that it builds up in the system is also alarming. I love fish, but have been eating less and less because of the mercury scare that seems to be increasing. Very informative hub.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

This was a fascinating article about - as you rightly say beautiful - metal. It's awesome though just how dangerous this substance can be - very informative hub! Voted up!


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Lord, thank you thank you. indeed we have to be aware always on the things that we thought safe.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Missy..sometimes we really dont know where this fish was caught..luckily. i lived on a place where water is safe ..but still no guarantee! so i hope that waste and garbage must be disposed properly.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Sparklea, oh my dear friend. Thank you for visiting.. it is not recommended to play with mercury too during experiments but then we used to pick it with no gloves. Hope that people would be more aware and teach others too of its dangers.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Genna, couldnt agree more. All we need i think is to be more careful with our waste so as to reduce mercury in fish and soils.. reducing will really help. thanks for the comment :)


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Hi Seeker. Thank you so much. A beautiful metal but a dangerous one.


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO

I still always think of 'Freddy Mercury' when I hear the word Mercury:) I did know how dangerous this stuff was .... and to think...my husband used to play with it!!!! Seriously - he kept a jar of it in his bedroom!

So far so good though...excellent hub! I broke a thermometer with Mercury in it and boy was I freaked out. I even called hazard waste and made sure of how I should clean it up. It broke down into little tiny balls and I couldn't wipe it up - it just moved around breaking and then rejoining into new little balls of poison.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 3 years ago

Glad that we now know the dangers of mercury. We used to have these in thermometers when I was a kid, never even thought about the dangers when the glass holder would break. We would play with the beads for a bit before throwing it out! Great hub post and very useful information.


Shawnte87 profile image

Shawnte87 3 years ago

Very informative hub! I always was aware of some of the dangers of mercury, but I learned a lot more about them today. :)


midget38 profile image

midget38 3 years ago from Singapore

Mercury is dangerous. I was always nervous when handling it in the science labs. Thanks for the awareness, M! Sharing!


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 3 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Hehe, Freddy Mercury sounds interesting.. Used to remember my crush way back when I hear that word, their class name is Mercury. :)

Anyway, thank you so much for the kind visit RealHouseWife. We really should not just ignore the mercury beads around us for it can really poison us and might suffer bad effects.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 3 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Dianna, I am so glad that you visited this hub. Kids do like to play thermometers and the silver beads.. not knowing it is dangerous..we really should avoid this thing :) thanks for the comment.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 3 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

hello Shawn. wow thank you, that's wonderful to hear!


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 3 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

hi Michelle. thank you the shared, and for the support..as always :) Huggsss xoxo


Mary 3 years ago

Mercury is really poisonous.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 3 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Mary, thank you for the comment.


kj force profile image

kj force 3 years ago from Florida

unknownspy..Great research..well written..This was one of the reasons Dentists stopped using metal fillings ( mercury). Touch and ingesting are not the only danger inhalation is high on the list and damage to brain and kidneys is common. The " "Thunnus alalunga "..Albacore Tuna is the one loaded with mercury..so unwise for pregnant women and children. This is a VERY toxic metal and people should abstain from anything containing it..Neuropathy ( nerve damage) is many times the end result of contact..thank you for sharing this info..voted up ,useful and interesting..


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 3 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Thank you so much KJF. Your message really adds to this hub. Thanks much!


toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 3 years ago

Very well done hub. Thanks for putting this info together. I knew mercury wasn't good, but your article is important to read. Voted up, useful, interesting, and Sharing.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 3 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

hello toknowinfo.. thank you so much for that very kind comment :)


vespawoolf profile image

vespawoolf 3 years ago from Peru, South America

Very helpful information. I remember when I was little, a thermometer broke at home and I was fascinated by the silver blob on the floor. Right away my mother shooed me away and explained the dangers of mercury. It scared me to death and ever since that day, I've always been aware of avoiding mercury in food, etc as much as possible. Thank you for sharing this valuable research. Well done!


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 3 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

thank you so much vespawoolf :) im glad you find this useful. mercury is really popular in chem labs. and students must be reminded to put gloves and nose covers when working on the experiment.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

Great job of raising awareness Spy! As a former science teacher, I am well aware of the dangers of mercury. You did a great job here!


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 3 years ago from Maui and Arizona

Voted up, useful -- and would've voted scary or unnerving if the options were there. This information is so important for us to remember. Sharing.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 3 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Thank you so much Sir Bill!


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 3 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

hehe thanks Pamela! thank you for the shared :)


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

Terrific article about the hidden dangers of mercury. Like others have stated, when I was young I remember playing with the bead of mercury and if memory serves, it was in school. Obviously they did not know the potential dangers as well as they do now. I did not realize that it was in so many things...even disinfectants! Up votes and definitely sharing!


MikeNV profile image

MikeNV 3 years ago from Henderson, NV

And no real solutions being offered by anyone. Gov't keeps telling people to buy CFL's, but if they break in your home you have a major problem on your hands. A huge amount of Environmental Mecury comes from Coal Burning in the United States and Far East - China and India. Just another of many things that humans are doing to destroy the Planet. Good hub. Voting up.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 3 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Thank you so much for reading and for the comment Peggy and Mike! :)


benisan85745 profile image

benisan85745 3 years ago from Tucson, AZ.

and to think as keikis (kids) in Hawaii when we were bored would break the thermometers to play with the mercury never knowing the hidden dangers.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 3 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

thank you Ben! and to think the mercury is a deadly element!


Vellur profile image

Vellur 3 years ago from Dubai

Great hub informing about the dangers of mercury. Mercury is harmful to humans and environment. Voted up and thanks for sharing.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 3 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

vellur, thank you so much!


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 3 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

thank you so much vellur


CrazedNovelist profile image

CrazedNovelist 3 years ago from Hampton, GA

Very informative Unknown!! Awesome writing... I was hearing about Mercury last night and awful it is to people.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 3 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up. Author

Thank you so much Aubrey!


Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 3 years ago from Germany

The first time I have encountered mercury was in my chemistry in high school. The second time was when my cousin bought a chinese beauty product a few months ago. This product was for lightening my new dark scar but has no content prescription in english only in chinese language. I googled the name of the product to know more and found out that it might contained mercury. I binned the product after reading the information. My cousin did the same with her soap.

Generally, Asians are fond of using whitening products like creams, soaps and facial lotions. I discovered then that some of these products containing mercury are being sold in supermarkets and pharmacies in the Philippines. You can find the names of the products when you google "cosmetics or beauty products containing mercury.

Thanks for writing about mercury. Well done. Voted up and shared.


ignugent17 profile image

ignugent17 3 years ago from Central Illinois , USA

Great information. You made it very simple to understand. Thanks. :-)


condominium profile image

condominium 3 years ago from Philippines

The word "Mercury" is also a chemical element also known as quicksilver or hydrargyrum (came from the Greek word "hydr" and “argyros" which means 'water’ and 'silver' respectively). -- This is such an interesting etymology of the world. Mercury does look like "silver water".

Also, good thing we got rid of those mercury thermometers a long time ago. They proved to be a health hazard if kept for a long time

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