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Question Why is mercury bad for you? ( Physics Help and Math Help - Physics Forums Biology )
Updated: 2008-05-19 04:59:38 (4)
Why is mercury bad for you?

Today in Chemistry my teacher was talking about Mercury, and said that it was bad because your thoughts and nerve-impulses are electrical, and that if you have alot of spare metal floating around your body the signals get all messed up. I asked "What about Iron, that's a critical component of our blood", and he explained that away becuase the Iron is in your red blood cells, not just floating around. But it still doesn't seem to make sense that Mercury should be so harmful to you. I mean, calcium, sodium and potassium are technically kinds of metals, and we eat those all the time. No one ever warns people not to touch copper or gold or silver etc., and those are more traditional metals. There has to be some other kind of reason that Mercury is so bad for you besides just being a metal.

Does anyone have any idea why?

Answers: Why is mercury bad for you? ( Physics Help and Math Help - Physics Forums Biology )
Why is mercury bad for you?

Just doing a little internet search:

Originally Posted by www.wikipedia.com
Elemental, liquid mercury is slightly toxic, while its vapor, compounds and salts are highly toxic and have been implicated as causing brain and liver damage when ingested, inhaled or contacted. For this reason (along with exaggeration of the actual risk in the media), most thermometers now use pigmented alcohol instead of mercury, though some medical thermometers still use mercury for reasons of accuracy.

The main dangers associated with elemental mercury are that at STP, mercury tends to oxidize forming mercury (II) oxide, and that if dropped or disturbed, mercury will form microscopic drops, increasing its surface area dramatically.

Even though it is far less toxic than its compounds, elemental mercury still poses significant environmental pollution and remediation problems due to the fact that mercury forms organic compounds inside of living organisms. Methyl mercury works its way up the food chain, reaching high concentrations among populations of some species such as tuna. Mercury poisoning in humans will result from persistent consumption of tainted foodstuffs.

One of the most dangerous mercury compounds, dimethylmercury, is so toxic that even a few microliters spilled on the skin can cause death.

Mercury is a bioaccumulative toxin that is easily absorbed through the skin, respiratory and gastrointestinal tissues. Minamata disease is a form of mercury poisoning. Mercury attacks the central nervous system and adversely affects the mouth, gums, and teeth. High exposure over long periods of time will result in brain damage and ultimately death. It can pose a major health risk to the unborn fetus. Air saturated with mercury vapor at room temperature is at a concentration many times the toxic level, despite the high boiling point (the danger is increased at higher temperatures).

Mercury should therefore be handled with great care. Containers of mercury need to be covered securely to avoid spillage and evaporation. Heating of mercury or mercury compounds should always be done under a well-ventilated, filtered hood. Additionally, some oxides can decompose into elemental mercury, which immediately evaporates and may not be apparent.
I guess that doesn't give any specifics but that might help

dav2008

Why is mercury bad for you?

Mercury has a rather high affinity for sulphur, and tends to react with sulphur-containing organic compounds like this: Hg + 2RSH -> R-S-Hg-S-R +2H+ +2e-. As all enzymes contain SH groups, addition of mercury will hence join onto them and alter their shape, rendering them useless. As a result of this, mercury will wreak havoc on all metabolic processes, as many of the enzymes required to bring them about will have been damaged.

Pyrovus

Why is mercury bad for you?

Mercury rips your liver to shreads. You can live on liver, but, you can't live without a liver.

Chronos

Why is mercury bad for you?

As mentioned, mercury bioaccumulates in vital organs and messes up metabolic processes. (sounds like your teacher was wrong)

Here's a technical link...
http://www.nap.edu/nap-cgi/skimit.cg...402&chap=31-71

This link may be a bit alarmist, but it seems to have some valid tech info too (agrees with what Pyrovus said about SH compounds)...
http://www.hbci.com/~wenonah/hydro/hg.htm

Phobos

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