Mercury: biological information
Mercury has no biological role but is widespread in the biosphere and in food chains, including ours.
Levels in humans
- Human abundance by weight: (no data) ppb by weight
- Human abundance by atoms: (no data) atoms relative to C = 1000000
How much mercury is in your body? Find out here.
You can use this form to calculate how much mercury your body contains. Enter your weight in either kilograms or pounds and click the "Calculate" button. You must enter a number, not text! Elements for which there are no data will always give a value of zero for the weight, no matter what you put in the weight box.
Hazards and Risks
Hazards and risks associated with mercury:
Mercury is a dreadful poison and is absorbed readily through the respiratory tract, the gastrointestinal tract, and through skin. It is a cumulative poison since there are few pathways available to the body for its excretion.
As mercury is a very volatile element, dangerous levels are readily attained in air. Mercury vapour should not exceed 0.1 mg m-3 in air. Air saturated with the vapour at 20°C contains mercury in a concentration far greater than that limit. The danger increases at higher temperatures. It is therefore important that mercury be handled with care. Containers of mercury should be securely covered and spillage should be avoided. Mercury should only be handled under in a well-ventilated area. If you are in possession of any mercury you are advised to contact a properly qualified chemist or public health laboratory for its safe disposal.
Small amounts of mercury spillage can be cleaned up by addition of sulphur powder. The resulting mixture should be disposed of carefully.
All mercury compounds are extremely toxic and are to be avoided and should only be handled by competent personnel taking proper precautions. Organomercury compounds are particularly toxic, methyl mercury extremely so. Mercury affects the central nervous system and has bad affects upon the mouth, gums, teeth. Ultimately high exposre results in death.
- J.E. Huheey, E.A. Keiter, and R.L. Keiter in Inorganic Chemistry : Principles of Structure and Reactivity, 4th edition, HarperCollins, New York, USA, 1993.
- S. Budavari (Ed.) in The Merck Index, 11th ed., Merck, USA, 1989.
- N.N. Greenwood and A. Earnshaw in Chemistry of the Elements, 2nd edition, Butterworth, UK, 1997.