Mercury is a silvery-white metal that is liquid at room temperature. It is odourless and not flammable. It rarely occurs as the free metal in nature but is often extracted from cinnabar.
Common name: Mercury, Hg.
Mercury is used in the manufacture of thermometers, barometers, diffusion pumps, switches and batteries. Other uses are in the chlor-alkali industry and in dental fillings.
Releases to the environment
Main sources of releases of mercury to the atmosphere are waste incineration, non-ferrous metal production, coal combustion and chlorine manufacturing plants. Mercury is also released from dental surgeries and hospitals. Since mercury occurs as an element in the earth’s crust, releases to the environment also result from natural sources.
Impacts on the environment and human health
Because of the persistence and bioaccumulation potential of mercury and its compounds in the environment, mercury is regarded as a global pollutant. Excessive exposure to mercury and its compounds may cause effects on the brain, digestive system, eye, heart, kidney, lung, reproductive system, skin, and the unborn child. Organic compounds of mercury are very toxic to wildlife because it tends to bioaccumulate and can have adverse effects on aquatic species.
Mercury and its compounds are listed as priority hazardous substance in of the EU Water Framework Directive, in the OSPAR convention for protection of the Marine Environment and in the Basel Convention controlling the transboundary movements of hazardous wastes. Furthermore mercury is on the EU-Commissions EPER list and listed in the PRTR Protocol under the Århus Convention.
CAS NO: 7439-97-6.