MERCURY

Why is it Hazardous?

Mercury is a heavy metal primarily used in thermometers, fluorescent bulbs, dentistry, cosmetics, and medicine. It may be found in its liquid metallic form (e.g., thermometers), as a salt-like substance (e.g., in medicine) or as an organic compound (e.g. methyl mercury in fish).

Its toxic effects can cause damage to the brain, kidneys, and lungs with symptoms including sensory impairment (vision, hearing, speech); lack of coordination; loss of hair, teeth, and nails; memory impairment; and insomnia.

Water Contaminated with Mercury Sign

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Where Can It Be Found?

• Fish and seafood (from contaminated waters)

• Cosmetics (skin-lightening products and mascara)

• Over-the-counter drugs (antiseptic ointments, laxatives, diaper rash ointments, eyedrops, nasal sprays)

• Fluorescent bulbs

• Traditional Chinese medicine (as cinnabar)

• Dental fillings

• Foods with high levels of high fructose corn syrup

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Facts

Baby Crawling with Mercury Diaper

• Organic mercury, which can be found in seafood, is the most toxic form of the substance because it is easily absorbed into your body's tissues.

• Wild-caught fish do not necessarily have lower levels of the toxin than farm-raised ones due to industrial ocean pollution.

• Fish higher on the food chain (e.g. shark, swordfish, albacore tuna, mackerel, tilefish) contain higher levels of mercury than others.

• Although the use of its use in cosmetics is regulated in the US, it is often illegally imported in skin-lightening products and mascara.