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Subject: Re: How fast does mercury evaporate?
From: (Norman L. Reitzel   )
Date: Apr 10 1995
Newsgroups: sci.chem

In article <3m4dek$> (James B. Tyler) writes:
>To the chap who spilled Hg from a broken thermometer in his bedroom:

>Your bedroom will become a Superfund site. Your house will be dismantled 
>and decontaminated and the pieces encapsulated and buried in a Class I 
>landfill. It will cost millions of dollars, and your neighbors will hate 
>you forever. :-)

>Sorry: couldn't resist!

The sick thing is that given the current zealousness of regulators, and 
their utter, complete, perfect lack of knowledge in the area, this little 
remark may be close to the truth.  Calling in the Hazmat team is a thing 
of last resort, unless you are trying to get on 60 minutes.

If your house is not a radon hazard, and you don't have heated floors as 
some do in Japan, then you have little to worry about.  If it makes you 
feel better, sprinkle some Flowers of Sulfur on the carpet.  It will 
reduce the rate of volatization from undisturbed droplets in the carpet, 
and it will insure your carpet doesn't grow fungus or get leaf mites.

  Norman L. Reitzel, Jr.       |    "When you live beside the graveyard,   |     you can't cry for every funeral."
  Blue Water Ventures, dba.    |                     Russian Proverb

Subject: Re: Mercury (was Cold Welding Cast Iron)
From: (Don Wilkins)
Date: Jan 01 1997
Newsgroups: rec.crafts.metalworking

On 31 Dec 1996 18:23:50 GMT, wrote:

>In <32C94F11.3988@JANDEL.COM>, Joe Osborn <JOEO@JANDEL.COM> writes:
>>It's true (and sad) about the hatters. But they worked with the stuff 
>>in large quantities day in and day out for years and years (probably 
>>with no ventilation). Same thing was true with the shipyard workers and 
>>asbestos. Remember when so many products were made of asbestos? We all 
>>handled it regularly a few years back. And most of us will show no signs 
>>of the contact. But the asbestos workers came home from work looking 
>>like snowmen, day after day, year after year. That was *bad* news. 
>>The issue here is really one of popular fear, and lack of understanding 
>>and appreciation of the more complex issues of dosage and exposure. Most 
>>people just have a knee jerk reaction which can sometimes be worse than 
>>the material that caused it.  

This is probably true when one considers the panic in removing
asbestos from schools. In this case more exposure was probably created
by removal than by leaving the stuff where it was. And pity the poor
individual with a house on the market and some eagle-eyed inspector
spotted a strip of asbestos tape on a heat duct. 

>>Joe Osborn
>>"A Live Steamer in Every Backyard"
>The mercury question is more complex than all that - the hatters did 
>*not* use metallic mercury.  They used mercury *salts* in the production
>of animal pelt hats.  The salts of mercury are much more dangerous than
>the metal itself.  They are water-soluble, so are easily ingested, and
>not easy for the body to get rid of.  Heavy metals like that are cumulative

It is even more complex than that. The salts are not necessarily more
dangerous. The metal has a significant vapor pressure and absorption
into the blood stream is rapid via the lungs so the victim gets a dose
unknowingly just by breathing. The salts will not be absorbed in that
manner and require some type of contact ( ingestion will be the worst
case scenario).

These cause what is referred to as inorganic mercury poisoning. The
poisoning is reversible unless it is a long term exposure condition
which has produce organic mercury in the body.

Symptoms can be irritable personality, speech problems, staggering,
etc. In some cases the irritable disposition was present before the
mercury poisoning. The people working in the mercury mines would be
forced to take time off and "sweat it out" in hot rooms periodically.
Whether the "hot rooms" were anymore effective than simply being
removed from the vapors is questionable.

Poisoning from organic mercury (particularly methyl mercury) is a much
more serious problem. Methyl mercury will pass the blood brain barrier
and cause irreversible brain damage.

Symptoms run from tunnel vision to a vegetative state. The first major
poisoning was in Japan and was called Minimatta disease for
considerable time until the true cause was discovered. ( A discharge
of mercury acetate into Minimatta Bay)  It was first thought to be a
genetic disease since every one on Minimatta Bay had it but then some
bright soul noticed the cats had it too and that they ate a lot of
fish and were not likely to be part of the gene pool of the residents.

Subsequently there was the case in NM where a man got some leftover
mercury treated corn and fed it to his pigs. The entire family was
decimated after consuming the pork. Mercury was used as a fungicide on

Next was the realization that the chlor-alkali plants were discharging
significant amounts of mercury in the production of sodium and
chlorine. This was showing up as methyl mercury in fish.

Some distinct populations who were more or less living off the land
had high fish diets and hence high mercury exposure.

Much of this occurred in 1974 and probably is the issue which made the
EPA what it is today.

>The vapor from metallic mercury is not so good, but the metal itself
>is not one of those "touch and die" things.

A good many of us managed to lay our hands on a mercury thermometer,
break it, and play with the little balls of mercury until they finally
disappeared. Perhaps that also accounts for some irritable
dispositions notably in chemists.

Newsgroups: sci.chem
Subject: Re: Mercury
From: (William R. Penrose)
Date: Wed, 19 Mar 1997 19:47:18

In article <5gp0ar$>
(Lloyd R. Parker) writes:

>Actually, if I'm not mistaken, you can ingest mercury without any harmful
>effects.  It's mercury vapor that's harmful when inhaled.  (Plus, mercury
>will ruin gold jewelry it contacts.)

Back when I was reading a lot of this stuff, I recall a med report on a guy 
who tried to kill himself by injecting mercury.  It didn't kill him.  They 
found it by xray in the bottom of his left ventricle.  He was warned never to 
invert himself, or it would dump the Hg into his circulatory system and 
probably kill him instantly.

Neat story, huh?


Bill Penrose, President, Custom Sensor Solutions, Inc.
526 West Franklin Avenue, Naperville, IL 60540
630-548-3548, fax: 630-369-9618
Applications of gas sensors:  Contract R&D, product
development, and consultation.

Newsgroups: rec.pyrotechnics
From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: mercury
Date: Mon, 07 Feb 94 22:54:48 GMT (Joseph Hall) writes:

>I said "relatively high."  The point is that mercury evaporates more
>quickly than most people realize, and that toxic concentrations can easily
>form in enclosed spaces.

Rubbish.  Let's separate the rational from the chemophobia.  

Fact:  Exposure to mercury vapor, even fairly high levels, will NOT
	kill you.  It will give you the worst case of the squirts 
	imaginable.  I know from experience after a mercury still in my
	lab sprung a leak and gassed me.  This released the vapor from
	on the order of several POUNDS of mercury into a relatively small

Fact:	Detectable does not indicate harmful.  
Fact:	Detectable in the body does not indicate risk.  It is an unfortunate
		byproduct of state of the art instrumentation capable
		of counting atoms, that the invention of common sense
		wasn't a parallel invention.  It is unfortunate that
		the EPA has fed this chemophobia.  They've snatched
		the nuclear protection concept of ALARA (as low as
		reasonable achievable), folded, spindled, and
		mutillated it and set "risk thresholds" based more on
		what can be detected than what is hazardous.

Fact:	Just because you can't see it doesn't mean you gotta fear it.
		The anti-nuclear hysteria of the last few decades has taught
		people to fear the invisible boogeyman.  This is simply
		another manifestation of that.

>>Mercury is dangerous, period.  Whether you breath it, swallow it, or touch it
>>with UNBROKEN SKIN.... it can invade your body.

Gad, from this, one could conclude that mercury has a life of its own.
Wow.  A living element.

>OK, well, I wish someone would straighten me out on this.  I have been
>told that the health risk from a broken thermometer in the mouth is the
>broken glass, not the mercury.  

This is absolutely correct.  elemental mercury has almost zero bio-
availability.  It is NOT attacked by stomach acids.  It passes 
right on out with the rest of your waste.

>Absorption through the skin is a health risk, but not an immediate and
>grave one if all you want to do is roll some around in your palm every
>year or two.  (I prefer gallium, but you need very warm hands to melt

No.  You cannot absorb pure mercury through the skin.  Period.  
You MIGHT be able to absorb mercuric compounds possibly present in 
contaminated mercury IFF you had an open sore on your hand.  

>Vapor is evidently a grave risk.

>Mercury-containing compounds that are in the least water- or acid-
>soluble are extremely grave health risks, e.g. mercuric chloride.

Jesus, don't you have any concept of proportionality risk?  A bullet
flying toward your head is a grave health risk.  A cloud of cyanide gas is a
grave health risk.  Mecuric chloride is NOT a grave risk unless you
decide to eat it.  This sounds like the silliness found in MSDS
databases that list, for example, "sea sand, washed" as a hazardous

>Recovery from mercury poisoning is evidently possible, 

Apparently so, or else my ghost is typing this message.

>given that
>(for example) Isaac Newton did after a year or so in the sanitarium.

Yep, he suffered MASSIVE contamination of the stuff, as did the 
"mad hatters" who used mercuric chloride in felt making.  The difference
between having one's hands immersed in a strong solution of mercuric
chloride and having a few PPM of mercury vapor in the air is 
many orders of magnitude in risk.  Apparently this fact is lost 
on a lot of people.

>Has anyone got a definitive and not overly conservative (i.e., not
>an MSDS) reference on hand to confirm/refute the above?

Unfortunately rational information is hard to come by.  A good indication
of rational can be obtained from chemical hygene or chemistry texts
written before the onslaught of chemophobia and safety-at-any-cost.

>>The contaminant is methyl mercury (dunno the exact formula. My guess
>>would be either CH3-Hg2-CH3 or CH3-Hg-CH3, considering its normal
>Organometallics ... generally not good for you if they're not either 
>chlorophyll or hemoglobin.

True.  And as it turns out, the largest source for organo-mercury is 
nature itself.  Yep, the Mother's an old bitch.


Subject: Re: Questions about Cadmium
From: (Don Wilkins) 
Date: Aug 16 1995
Newsgroups: sci.chem.analytical,sci.chem

Martin Ystenes <> wrote:

> (Mike Kelley) wrote:
>>Can someone
>>please tell me how long Cd stays in the body. Are there symptoms of
>>chronic cadmium exposure ( except for cancer )?
>I have seen different numbers, up to a halv time of 90 years.
>Cadmium caused the disease Itai-Itai. The effect is very similar to
>mercury. Accute poisoning is less sever, but the half-time is very
>much longer. 


The Japanese word for <OUCH> is <itai>. The <itai-itai> which is the
expression used simply translated means it hurts like H***. Cd
replaces calcium in the bone and when the level gets high enough it
does indeed hurt like H***. It is a chronic , long term debilitating

The effect is not similar to mercury at all. Mercury poisoning comes
about in more than one way. Inorganic mercury poisoning results from
ingestion of mercury and/or the inhalation of the metallic vapor. In
general this is somewhat reversible. The symptoms are an irritable
disposition, problems with balance, speech, etc. The people who worked
in the felt hat industry and in mercury mines were classic examples of
the effects of inorganic mercury poisoning. The treatment was to
remove them from the source and sweat the mercury out over a period of
weeks. This usually resulted in a marked improvement so they returned
to the source of trouble. Continuous exposure apparently eventually
brought on organic mercury poisoning. Presumably by metabolism in the
body to form methylmercury.

Poisoning by organic mercury on the other hand is a much more serious
proposition. The culprit is usually methylmercury which unfortunately
passes the blood brain barrier and cause permanent brain damage. The
first symptoms are loss of central vision and it is down hill from
there. There is no treatment and no hope for recovery. The Japanese at
Minimata Bay received massive doses of methylmercury because of the
high fish content in their diet. It was called Minimata disease and
took far too long to diagnose.

Two tragic mass exposures to mercury and cadmium occurred in Japan.
They were a result of insufficient safety practices but were not
related and the effects of poisoning by mercury and cadmium are not at
all similar.


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