General, Research, Technology

Why is mercury dangerous and where is it used

From childhood, we are told that mercury is dangerous, but whenFor this, many families still use mercury thermometers. In Europe, they were banned because of the danger to humans, but it is there that it is mined most. Along with the energy of the atom, it is mercury that is that, the danger of which everyone understands, but cannot refuse it in any way. This is how it is controversial, but thanks to its properties, it is still used in a huge number of branches of medicine and industry. If you are interested to know how it is obtained, where it is used and how it threatens a person, besides the usual "very dangerous", then you have come to the right place.

Mercury is beautiful but dangerous.


  • 1 What is mercury
  • 2 What is the danger of mercury
  • 3 How mercury is mined
  • 4 The use of mercury in medicine
  • 5 What to do if you broke the thermometer
    • 5.1 How to collect mercury
    • 5.2 How to throw out a broken thermometer and mercury from it
    • 5.3 How to understand that you have poisoned with mercury
  • 6 Which thermometer is more accurate? Electronic or mercury?
  • 7 Mercury in industry

What is mercury

Let's first understand what mercury is all about. In Latin, its name sounds like Hydrargyrum... It is an element of the sixth period of the periodic table of elements, which D. Mendeleev gave us. The atomic number of mercury in the table is 80, and it belongs to the zinc subgroup.

Mercury is not a gas, liquid or metal -it is a transition metal. At room temperature, it is a heavy, silvery-white liquid. The most important feature for the common man is the extreme danger of mercury vapor, which is very poisonous.

65 million years ago, the Earth’s atmosphere was contaminated with mercury

There are only two chemical elements that are in a liquid state under normal conditions. Mercury is one of them along with bromine.

What is the danger of mercury

Despite the fact that mercury looks like somethingholistic, it emits a lot of vapors, which, when ingested, lead not only to damage to the lungs, but also to other often irreversible changes. It is especially dangerous at the stage of intrauterine development.

When mercury enters the body, it hastoxic effects on the digestive, immune and nervous systems. In addition, skin, kidneys, lungs and even eyes are affected. It's not for nothing that the World Health Organization (WHO) classifies mercury as one of the top ten essential substances that pose the greatest threat to public health.

It's better not to do that.

The most dangerous is mercury in the form of vapor or solution. When it gets into water, it leads to the death of microorganisms and remains in it forever in the form of the same solution. As a result, it can get into the water supply system and harm the whole settlement. Moreover, even a minimal amount of mercury is sufficient for human exposure.

Also, two types of mercury compounds are shared -organic and inorganic. The former (for example, dimethylmercury) are much more dangerous, as they interact more effectively with the body's systems.

How many tables of chemical elements actually exist?

How mercury is mined

Mercury is obtained by industrialway. To extract it, you have to process a mineral called cinnabar or red stone. The extraction of metal is carried out by means of oxidative-distillation roasting. As a result, mercury vapor is formed. They are hot and must be processed further. These vapors are condensed and purified, yielding the familiar mercury.

Large deposits of mercury are currently found in Spain and Slovenia.

It is very rare, but mercury can still be found in the formdeposits in liquid form. However, at the current level of technology, this is not so important. In the old days it was really important to find mercury in a “ready-made” form.

The use of mercury in medicine

Continuing the topic of the dangers of mercury, it is worth notingthat earlier people did not know about it and, on the contrary, were treated to her in pure form. Until the 60s of the last century, people did not think about possible problems. They put dental fillings in which there were compounds of mercury, took medications, which included it, and did not worry at all about a broken thermometer. Moreover, many children then deliberately broke thermometers to play with mercury. It shimmers interestingly, and if you do not know about its danger, then everything is fine. Would you say that this is so-so entertainment? Then remember how everyone was spinning spinners.

They flow and merge, but they also poison the air.

If we take more ancient times, then in the middleit was the norm for centuries to give a person a glass of mercury to drink. It was believed that the heavy liquid would push through all the excess in the body, and at the same time straighten the intestines. How this treatment ended, history is silent, but it is unlikely that the patients lived happily ever after.

Until 1967 in the USSR and until the end of the 1970s in the USA mercury has been actively used to treat syphilis because of its high resistance to other drugs. However, after such "treatment" people lost their hair and disrupted other functions of the body.

You can give as many examples of antiseptics, diuretics, laxatives and other drugs as you like, which included mercury... Now it has remained only in thermometers (not in all countries) and as a preservative for some vaccines, but in minimal doses.

What to do if you break the thermometer

A broken thermometer may seemminor problem, but it's still a problem. It will contain at least 2 grams of mercury, which is not enough. Even state portals, in particular, have an answer to the question of what to do in this case.

If you spill a small amount of mercury(broken thermometer), first of all, take people and animals out of the room, then open the window and close the door. It is also necessary to protect the respiratory organs with a mask or bandage. Then start collecting the mercury immediately.

It looks very harmless, but you shouldn't relax.

Two grams of mercury, which is contained in one thermometer, in a closed room with a volume of 20 cubic meters create a vapor concentration that thousands of times higher than the level safe for humans.

How to collect mercury

When collecting mercury, never sweep it awaywith a broom, so as not to provoke the formation of fine mercury dust. The larger the drops, the better. A vacuum cleaner is also a bad helper, since the evaporated mercury will pass through the filters and end up in the air in an even more dangerous form.

A small amount of mercury leaked from the thermometercan be assembled using a regular medical pear or a sheet of paper and a knitting needle or thick needle. Pieces of patch can be used to collect the smallest drops.

Everything that you collected and how you collected it,put in a jar and close the lid tightly. After that, wash the scene thoroughly. A good option is to wipe the area with a manganese solution or a soap and soda solution. After cleaning, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

Wash your hands thoroughly after picking up the mercury.

How to throw out a broken thermometer and mercury from it

Never dispose of collected mercuryinto a garbage chute or sewer. This can lead to a further risk of uncontrolled infection. Place the can of collected waste on a balcony or garage and take it to a demercurization center for disposal as soon as possible.

How to understand that you have poisoned yourself with mercury

The symptoms of mercury poisoning are approximatelyin 8-24 hours. The main symptoms include general weakness, pain when swallowing, headache, and fever. After a while, the gums and abdomen begin to hurt, and stomach upsets and even pneumonia appear. There are even known fatalities.

Skin cream can cause poisoning. How to avoid this?

Which thermometer is more accurate? Electronic or mercury?

Professionals often have to answer thisquestion. Usually they say that a mercury thermometer will be more accurate, but at home you need to have an electronic one. They explain this by the fact that both devices can have errors and their readings must be rechecked.

Under normal conditions, mercury is always liquid.

The error of a mercury thermometer isabout 0.1 degrees. For electronic deflections, it is usually in the range of 0.2 to 0.4 degrees. The largest error in contactless thermometers is up to 0.5 degrees. If you do not wipe the sensor of the non-contact thermometer, then the deviations may even be 1.5-2 degrees.

It must be remembered that the peculiarity of mercuryThe thermometer is that it shows the maximum temperature during the measurement, while the electronic one usually gives average readings, and the non-contact one is completely momentary. Body temperature can vary within 5 minutes within one degree. This must also be borne in mind.

Application of a non-contact thermometer most suitable for temperature measurementvisitors to public places or aircraft passengers; and children. In these cases, it will not be possible to detain a person for 5 minutes for a more accurate temperature measurement.

Mercury in industry

In industry, mercury is used much more often thanin medicine. In particular, it has found application in high-precision thermometers due to a wide range of operating temperatures (those at which it remains in a liquid state).

Mercury must not only be produced but also disposed of.

Fluorescent lamps are still filled with mercury vapor. Its vapors glow in a glow discharge, and there is a lot of ultraviolet light in the emission spectrum. To make the light visible inside the lamp is covered with a phosphor... Without such a coating, the lamp will be a sourcehard ultraviolet radiation. In this form, they are used to disinfect surfaces and premises. For example, in subway cars (in a depot) or when handling escalator handrails when they are at the bottom.

This is how subway cars are treated with ultraviolet light.

Alchemists of the past believed that mercury is the basis of any substance, and if you return it to a solid state with the help of sulfur or arsenic, then it will become gold, but they naturally did not succeed

Mercury is used in some parts of electrical circuitswith a high average current strength (hundreds of amperes), in position sensors, in some chemical current sources, in semiconductor detectors of radioactive radiation, and even as a working medium of some hydrodynamic bearings operating under heavy load.

Previously, mercury was also used in manufacturingpaint covering the underwater part of ships to avoid fouling. Until the middle of the 20th century, mercury was actively used in manometers, barometers and other weather instruments. This is where the tradition of measuring pressure in millimeters of mercury came from.

The principle of operation of the mercury column.

Mercury has found its use in the fashion industry. For example, used to be used in hat making for making felt and for amalgamating surfaces in the manufacture of mirrors.

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Now mercury is trying to find analogues so thatreduce dependence on this dangerous element, but so far it has not been possible to do this completely. We can only treat it with caution and not neglect safety standards.