Mercury is the 80th element on the periodic table and is represented by the chemical symbol Hg. It is a metal, but remains in liquid form at room temperature. Mercury is a very toxic substance and accumulates in the body. It causes damage to the brain, kidney and lungs and even small doses can cause mercury poisoning. Despite the danger of this element, mercury still has many important uses.
Uses of mercury
- Mercury is used in thermometers and traditional blood pressure monitors. However, today the use of mercury is being phased out for safer mercury-free products.
- In dentistry amalgam fillings are used for repairing cavities. These contain 50% mercury.
- Thiomersal (Thimerosal), a compound containing mercury, is a preservative used in many vaccines and some other pharmaceutical products (nasal sprays, eye drops, antiseptic and diaper rash ointments). It is also commonly used in tattoo inks. This compound is also commonly used in the manufacture of mascara.
- Mercury is commonly used in mercury-vapor lamps and is used in some advertising signs as an alternative to the more widely used neon sign. Mercury is also used in many fluorescent lamps.
- It is also used in the production of chlorine and caustic soda
The removal of mercury
Mercury is no longer used for many different applications because of worries about its safety. In the past it has been used for gold and silver mining, light switches, batteries, in barometers and other scientific equipment, preserving wood for making hats and in many other industries.