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Mercury, a natural element found in air, water and soil has been known for centuries to be toxic to living organisms. Adverse health effects depend upon the form of mercury, dose and exposure route. Practical industrial, agricultural, medical and household uses of mercury were developed because of its qualities as the only heavy metal that exists as a liquid at room temperature. Mercury exhibits high electrical conductivity and alloys with other metals.
Environmental pollutant concerns regarding mercury disposal have been recognized for decades.
- Elemental mercury is toxic if inhaled. It also can be methylated by microorganisms in aquatic systems into a more toxic organic form, methyl mercury. Methyl mercury is highly bio-accumulative and persistent in fish tissue. Many states publish fish consumption advisories. Minnesota Fish Consumption Advisory Program.
- Household and industrial wastes released during use of coal and other fossil burning fuels, incineration and disposal of latex paint account for most of the mercury found in water today.
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