Human beings have a complicated relationship with our planet and the natural occurring chemicals that co-exist with us. Some that we historically considered beneficial were in fact slowly poisoning us. The main culprit that many of us think of in this context is mercury.
This element, which is number eighty on the periodic table, is quite toxic to us even in small amounts in its more pure forms. While salts with it are not always Mark Wahlberg dangerous, it is still important to always be on the lookout for it and try to detect it before anyone gets hurt.
Historical Uses of Mercury
For many centuries, humans considered it a helpful chemical that could treat and even cure a variety of illnesses. If you want more information on this topic, you can look here: https://mercurypolicy.scripts.mit.edu/blog/?p=367.
You may think it is unnecessary to discuss the history of this metal, but I think it is worthwhile. We need to understand how it has become so over abundant in our atmosphere as we try to prevent the problem from getting worse. It even worms its way into our laboratories, after all.
Elements occur on our planet in fixed amounts, so we have not in fact been creating more of it. Rather, the processes involved in mining fossil fuels such as coal and oil release the mercury in the earth’s crust out into the air. In small amounts this would probably be okay, but it has gotten rather out of control.
However, humans have actually mined for this metal for a very long time. Going back to Ancient Rome, archaeologists have discovered paint that contained mercury, meaning the Romans had to have sought it out somehow.
One of the ways that it was used is to amalgamate gold. In this process, pellets of mercury cover the gold. They are easy to spot and shiny, and miners would burn these pellets to expose the gold beneath. This process has been streamlined since, and there are even mercury analysis systems that have been developed to aid it.
Now, that is quite ancient history. Moving our attention forward a bit, this metal was used in the creation of thermometers and barometers. Some places in the world still produce medical equipment that has the substance in them, although this is a controversial practice. It is difficult to do so safely, after all.
Unsurprisingly, it was the Industrial Revolution that led to a higher demand for this dangerous liquid metal. If you study history in any capacity, you probably know that almost everything leads back to the Industrial Revolution (or the Greek philosophers, but that is neither here nor there). Read More
It was used to develop the first fluorescent light bulb and is actually still used in many of them. If you have ever heard that it is more dangerous to drop one of those bulbs, this is probably why. I know I was always incredibly careful with them if I chose to purchase them.
Finally, as we move to the 1960s, the most common use of this metal is in the paper industry. After all, much production of paper uses something known as caustic soda. This caustic soda contains both mercury and chlorine.
The Dangers of Mercury
As I have alluded to a few times in this article so far, human contact with mercury is dangerous and harmful. If you want to know more of the health risks associated with this contact, you can go read this page. That being said, I will describe some of them here as well. I think this is important knowledge for anyone interested in production and finding gold via this method as well.
All forms of pure mercury are toxic for humans. Some are more or less dangerous, but it is never a good idea to touch it, eat it, breathe it in, or consume it in some other way. If you are exposed, it can infiltrate your body very quickly as a vapor, and get into your lungs, blood stream, and brain.
One of the groups most at risk are pregnant women. If you are carrying a child and eat a lot of fish that contain high levels of mercury, your baby may be at risk of having developmental issues that are directly linked to this. Unfortunately, this is more and more prevalent.
This metal can have lasting damages on a person. It often negatively impacts our cognitive development, our fine motor skills, and our memory. While it is children that are most susceptible, it is dangerous for adults as well – make no mistake about that.
It is always better to be safer rather than sorry. Consider investing in mercury detection equipment if you are working with metals or are concerned about this topic. You won’t regret it.