Elemental Mercury

What is Mercury?

Mercury is a naturally occuring metal, that is can be present in water, air, or soil. It is a shimmery, silver liquid at room temperature in its pure form, but is also found bound in many rocks. Coal Burning power plants are the largest releaser of Mercury, as the mercury in coal is vaporized and released into air when it is burned. This airborne mercury settles in water, and forms methylmercury, which is the harmful compound we read about accumulating in our food. High levels of exposure to mercury can cause severe brain, lung, immune system, and other damage, particularly to young children and pregnant women. While most people are not at risk to consume high levels of mercury, it is important to understand potential risks, and focus on low mercury seafood choices.

(photo courtesy Ohio EPA)

Other Mercury Information

  1. Rutgers
  2. Executive Dean of Agriculture and Natural Resources
  3. School of Environmental and Biological Sciences