Mercury is a metal that occurs naturally in small
amounts in the environment.
Because it remains
liquid at room temperature, it is used in many
consumer products such as:
Blood pressure instruments
containing mercury are used in some small
What health problems are associated with
exposure to mercury?
Health problems caused by mercury depend on the following:
much has entered your body
How it entered your
How long you have been exposed to it
How your body responds to the mercury
Mercury is harmful to both animals and humans.
Children are more susceptible to mercury poisoning
Exposure to even small amounts of
mercury over a long period may cause negative
health effects including damage to the brain, kidney, lungs and developing fetus.
Brief contact with high
levels of mercury can cause immediate health effects
Loss of appetite
Changes in behavior or personality
the length or degree of exposure, additional
symptoms may occur, such as:
When exposure to mercury stops, most symptoms
usually go away; however, effects on the brain and
nervous system may be permanent.
has entered the body, it can take months before it is
eliminated, mainly through the urine and feces.
Levels of mercury can be measured in blood, urine,
and scalp hair. These tests may help to predict
possible health effects.
How can I be exposed to mercury?
Mercury exposure can occur by:
Many people are exposed by breathing vapors, which are readily absorbed by the lungs.
Direct skin contact
Mercury can enter the body through the skin, especially if it comes in contact with a cut or wound.
Eating food or drinking
water contaminated with mercury
If you swallow mercury, very little is absorbed. Most of the mercury is eliminated through the digestive tract.
What should I do if I am accidentally exposed
The Southern Nevada Health District assists in
responding to mercury spills in homes.
of mercury from a typical broken thermometer
would be considered a small spill. If more mercury
than this is spilled, it would be considered a large
Some people save mercury from various
sources and store the product in containers. This is
dangerous because mercury may escape from broken
or improperly sealed containers. Individuals may
often be exposed without their knowledge.