What is mercury and how can it affect your health?

Mercury at high levels can damage the brain, kidneys, and developing fetus. Short term exposure can cause lung damage, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, increases in blood pressure or heart rate, skin rashes, and eye irritation. Effects on brain functioning may result in irritability, shyness, tremors, changes in vision or hearing, and memory problems.

How are people be exposed to mercury?

Exposure to mercury occurs from breathing contaminated air, ingesting contaminated water and food, and having dental and medical treatments.

How can families reduce their risk of exposure to mercury?

Carefully handle and dispose of products that contain mercury. Learn about local wildlife and fish advisories from your public health or natural resource department.

What to do in the event of a mercury spill?

Should a mercury-containing thermometer or light bulb break, do not reach for the vacuum cleaner to clean up the spill. Instead, open a window to ventilate the area. Then read our fact sheet describing the proper cleanup procedures for small mercury spill.

Common products that may contain mercury:

  • Antiques
  • Older electric appliances
  • Automotive parts
  • Barometers
  • Batteries
  • Dental amalgam
  • Electronics with LCD screens
  • Jewelry
  • Light bulbs
  • Medical equipment and pharmaceuticals
  • Skin cream
  • Sporting equipment
  • Thermometers
  • Thermostats

NEVER use a vacuum cleaner, mop or broom to clean up a mercury spill. This will spread the mercury and will put toxic vapors in the air.

NEVER use a washer or dryer to clean clothing that became contaminated with liquid mercury. The washer and dryer can become contaminated with mercury.