Toxin Profiles

Substance Name

Mercury
Identification Number: CASRN | 7439-97-6

  Nastiness Attributes


  • Carcinogenic Properties

    Accumulating evidence points to cancer potential. Exercise caution with this substance, explore your exposure routes and consider complete avoidance. See further details under Toxins.

  • Endocrine Disrupter

    Interferes with your hormones. Hormones are powerful messengers that can bind to DNA. You don't want to mess with them.

  • Reproductive Effects

    Interferes with fertility

  • Metabolic Interference or Disruption

    Interferes with human metabolism. This can be a very serious thing. Some of these interference mechanics are well established. However, often long term effects and health consequences remain largely unknown. Additionally an emerging area of concern and one that is not currently studied, is the combined synergistic effects these metabolically disrupting chemicals have on human health.

    Metabolic interference happens when the substance produces highly reactive and often damaging intermediates during detoxification or when the substance binds to specific enzymes, important structural groups on molecules, receptors and membranes or targets DNA or mimics key nutrients.

  • Exposure Produces Health Symptoms

    Symptoms maybe short term or long term depending on the exposure duration and intensity and effects areas like Cardiovascular, Gastrointestinal, Cognition, Fatigue. A substance with this attribute may cause an allergic skin reaction, serious eye irritation, allergy or asthma symptoms or breathing difficulties if inhaled.

  • Serious Acute Effects

    This is a serious nasty substance. Effects are Acute (seen immediately). Substances in this category may be FATAL or acutely toxic if inhaled, skin contact or swallowed. See further details.

  • Toxic to specific organs

    Can damage liver, kidney, lungs, heart or gut. Ironically liver, kidneys and gut are the main detoxifications systems.

  • Toxic to Wildlife

    May kill plants, fish, birds or other animals and insects or may be very toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects. This then effects delicate environmental ecology and food supply in ways we don't fully understand yet.

  • Volatile - Evaporates easily

    This substance easily enters the air we breath. Not really a nastiness attribute, but this feature helps rapidly spread other nastiness attributes this substance may have.


  • CATEGORIES: Pit Chemicals | Chemicals detected in flowback and produced water - collectively referred to as - hydraulic fracturing wastewater | Household Toxin | Industrial/Workplace Toxin | Pollutant | Airborne Pollutant | Food Toxin | Natural Toxin | A Hazardous Substance that may be found in the Australian Workplace
  • SUBSTANCE LINEAGE: Inorganic Compounds | Homogeneous Metal Compounds | Homogeneous Transition Metal Compounds | | Homogeneous Transition Metal Compounds
  • SYNONYMS: Hg(2+) | Hg2+ | Mercuric ion | Mercury ion | Mercury(2+) | Mercury(2+) ion | Mercury(II) | Mercury(II) cation | Mercury(II) ion | Metallic mercury | Quicksilver
  • DESCRIPTION: Has been used in CSG, Hydraulic Fracturing Operations (Fracking) as - Unknown | Mercury is a metal that is a liquid at room temperature. Mercury has a long and interesting history deriving from its use in medicine and industry, with the resultant toxicity produced. In high enough doses, all forms of mercury can produce toxicity. The most devastating tragedies related to mercury toxicity in recent history include Minamata Bay and Niagata, Japan in the 1950s, and Iraq in the 1970s. More recent mercury toxicity issues include the extreme toxicity of the dimethylmercury compound noted in 1998, the possible toxicity related to dental amalgams, and the disproved relationship between vaccines and autism related to the presence of the mercury-containing preservative, thimerosal. Hair has been used in many studies as a bioindicator of mercury exposure for human populations. At the time of hair formation, mercury from the blood capillaries penetrates into the hair follicles. As hair grows approximately 1 cm each month, mercury exposure over time is recapitulated in hair strands. Mercury levels in hair closest to the scalp reflect the most recent exposure, while those farthest from the scalp are representative of previous blood concentrations. Sequential analyses of hair mercury have been useful for identifying seasonal variations over time in hair mercury content, which may be the result of seasonal differences in bioavailability of fish and differential consumption of piscivorous and herbivorous fish species. Knowledge of the relation between fish-eating practices and hair mercury levels is particularly important for adequate mitigation strategies. Physiologically, it exists as an ion in the body. Methyl mercury is well absorbed, and because the biological half-life is long, the body burden in humans may reach high levels. People who frequently eat contaminated seafood can acquire mercury concentrations that are potentially dangerous to the fetus in pregnant women. The dose-response relationships have been extensively studied, and the safe levels of exposure have tended to decline. Individual methyl mercury exposure is usually determined by analysis of mercury in blood and hair. Whilst the clinical features of acute mercury poisoning have been well described, chronic low dose exposure to mercury remains poorly characterised and its potential role in various chronic disease states remains controversial. Low molecular weight thiols, i.e. sulfhydryl containing molecules such as cysteine, are emerging as important factors in the transport and distribution of mercury throughout the body due to the phenomenon of Molecular Mimicry and its role in the molecular transport of mercury. Chelation agents such as the dithiols sodium 2,3-dimercaptopropanesulfate (DMPS) and meso-2,3-dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA) are the treatments of choice for mercury toxicity. Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), a disulfide, and its metabolite dihydrolipoic acid (DHLA), a dithiol, have also been shown to have chelation properties when used in an appropriate manner. Whilst N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) and glutathione (GSH) have been recommended in the treatment of mercury toxicity in the past, an examination of available evidence suggests these agents may in fact be counterproductive. Zinc and selenium have also been shown to exert protective effects against mercury toxicity, most likely mediated by induction of the metal binding proteins metallothionein and selenoprotein-P. Evidence suggests however that the co-administration of selenium and dithiol chelation agents during treatment may also be counter-productive. Finally, the issue of diagnostic testing for chronic, historical or low dose mercury poisoning is considered including an analysis of the influence of ligand interactions and nutritional factors upon the accuracy of chelation challenge tests. (A7, A7667, A7668).
  • COMMENTS: From Safe Work Australia and the Hazardous Substances Information System (HSIS) in Australia: May damage the unborn child. Fatal if inhaled. Causes damage to organs through prolonged or repeated exposure. Very toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects | Chronic Health Hazard Environmental Hazard Acutely Toxic | A Hazardous Substance that may be found in the Australian Workplace. Check with your employer or health and safety officer. Stay informed and become aware of the dangers that surround you. This chemical is included on the list of recognised hazardous chemicals from the Safe Work Australia - Hazardous Substances Information System (HSIS) that is based on the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations are the basis for hazardous chemicals regulations in Commonwealth, State and Territory jurisdictions in Australia. Under the model WHS Regulations, manufacturers and importers of substances, mixtures and articles supplied for use in workplaces are required to determine whether they are hazardous to health and safety before supply. The model WHS Regulations mandate that the hazards of a chemical as determined by the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) must be included in safety data sheets and on labels. There are transitional arrangements in place for moving to the GHS-based system.The GHS Hazardous Chemical Information List contains chemicals classified by an authoritative source (such as the European Commission or NICNAS) in accordance with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (the GHS). This list contains the vast majority of chemicals currently in HSIS. This list and its detail are regularly updated by Work Safe Australia. The model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations require chemicals to be classified in accordance with the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). However transitional arrangements allow use of classification information in HSIS derived from the Approved Criteria until the 31 December 2016.
  • toxin chemical structure pubchem
  • FORMULA: Hg
  • DATA SOURCES: DATA SOURCES: ARTICLE 4 | T3DB | PubChem | IARC | TEDX | EPA in USA | Safe Work Australia - Hazardous Substances Information System (HSIS)
  • LAST UPDATE: 21/04/2015

  Health Associations

Mostly focused on Health Implications of Long Term Exposure to this substance

  • SYMPTOMS: Common symptoms include peripheral neuropathy (presenting as paresthesia or itching, burning or pain), skin discoloration (pink cheeks, fingertips and toes), edema (swelling), and desquamation (dead skin peels off in layers). (A5)
  • POSSIBLE HEALTH CONSEQUENCES: Mercury mainly affects the nervous system. Exposure to high levels of metallic, inorganic, or organic mercury can permanently damage the brain, kidneys, and developing fetus. Effects on brain functioning may result in irritability, shyness, tremors, changes in vision or hearing, and memory problems. Acrodynia, a type of mercury poisoning in children, is characterized by pain and pink discoloration of the hands and feet. Mercury poisoning can also cause Hunter-Russell syndrome and Minamata disease. (L7) | Mercury is absorbed mainly via ingestion and inhalation, then distributed throughout the body via the bloodstream, where a portion binds to sulfhydryl groups on haemoglobin. Being lipid soluble, mercury vapor readily enters the red blood cells and the central nervous system following inhalation exposure. Once inside the cell, mercury vapor can undergo oxidation to mercuric mercury, which takes place via the catalase–hydrogen peroxide pathway. The mercury atom is able to diffuse down the cleft in the catalase enzyme to reach the active site where the heme ring is located. Oxidation most likely occurs in all tissue, as the catalase hydrogen peroxide pathway is ubiquitous. Following oxidation, mercury tends to accumulate in the kidneys. Organic and elemental mercury can also penetrate the placenta and blood-brain barrier, and thus also accumulate in the brain. Mercury is excreted mainly by exhalation and in the faeces. (A6, L7)
  • ACTION OF TOXIN: High-affinity binding of the divalent mercuric ion to thiol or sulfhydryl groups of proteins is believed to be the major mechanism for the activity of mercury. Through alterations in intracellular thiol status, mercury can promote oxidative stress, lipid peroxidation, mitochondrial dysfunction, and changes in heme metabolism. Mercury is known to bind to microsomal and mitochondrial enzymes, resulting in cell injury and death. For example, mercury is known to inhibit aquaporins, halting water flow across the cell membrane. It also inhibits the protein LCK, which causes decreased T-cell signalling and immune system depression. Mercury is also believed to inhibit neuronal excitability by acting on the postsynaptic neuronal membrane. It also affects the nervous system by inhibiting protein kinase C and alkaline phosphatase, which impairs brain microvascular formation and function, as well as alters the blood-brain barrier. Organic mercury exerts developmental effects by binding to tubulin, preventing microtubule assembly and causing mitotic inhibition. Mercury also produces an autoimmune response, likely by modification of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II molecules, self peptides, T-cell receptors, or cell-surface adhesion molecules. (L7, A8, A25, A26) | Mercury affects the nervous system by inhibiting alkaline phosphatase, which impairs brain microvascular formation and function, as well as alters the blood-brain barrier. (L7)
  • TOXIN SITES OF ACTION IN CELL: "Cytoplasm", "Extracellular"
  • Additional Exposure Routes: Metallic mercury is used to produce chlorine gas and caustic soda. It is also used in thermometers, dental fillings, and batteries. Mercury salts are sometimes used in skin lightening creams and as antiseptic creams and ointments. (L7)

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  Exposure Routes

These are the Exposure Routes we have so far for this substance. There are almost certainly more. We update this section regularly. The number of chemicals with 2 or more nastiness attributes in an exposure route is shown in orange. They grey badge shows the total amount of chemicals within the exposure route.


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