Mercury Reactions Mercury is a metal that interacts in the same way as the other metals in the d-block. Mercury may react with ordinary salts in the +1 or +2 oxidation states, but it can also combine with organic molecules to generate very hazardous organomercury compounds. Organic compounds are those containing carbon and hydrogen atoms; all other elements (such as nitrogen, phosphorus, oxygen, sulfur, and zinc) contain carbon and hydrogen as well. The carbon and hydrogen atoms in an organic compound can be connected to each other through single bonds or double bonds. The combination of mercury with an organic molecule results in a highly toxic substance called organomercury.
In chemistry, reactions are changes in chemical composition of substances involved in the reaction, usually resulting in a new material being formed and no longer existing substances. Chemical reactions are important for understanding how chemicals change form and for designing methods to produce useful materials. In physics, a reaction is any physical change that occurs in a substance, which can be either reversible or irreversible. Reactions are often divided into two general categories: Equilibrium reactions and Endothermic reactions. In an equilibrium reaction, the energy required to break down the original substance increases the order of molecules within the mixture. As a result, there is less interaction between original substance and surrounding environment and it tends to reach a state where neither breaking down into simpler components nor forming up into a new substance happens spontaneously.
Mercury is a very hazardous heavy metal found in the environment as a result of both natural and manmade processes. It can have many forms, including elemental mercury, organic mercury, and inorganic mercury salts.
Elemental mercury is the most toxic form of mercury. It is extremely reactive and can become airborne when burned or when objects that contain it are heated to high temperatures (such as during welding activities or incineration). Once in the air, it can be absorbed by animals and humans through the lungs or ingested through food chains.
Organic mercury refers to compounds containing mercury attached to carbon. These compounds are generally less toxic than elemental mercury but more toxic than inorganic mercury compounds. Common organic mercury compounds include methylmercury and ethylmercury. Methylmercury is produced when bacteria break down fish waste with high levels of mercury. Ethylmercury is used as a pesticide and fungicide and is present in some fruits, vegetables, and grains. Inorganic mercury compounds are those containing mercury combined with other elements such as arsenic, lead, or zinc. They are relatively non-toxic compared with elemental mercury but still pose a risk to human health based on how they are used.
There are three types of mercury: elemental mercury, inorganic mercury compounds (most notably mercuric chloride), and organic mercury compounds (primarily methyl mercury). All forms of mercury are very poisonous, and each form has a unique set of health consequences. Organic mercury is broken down by bacteria in the gut into methyl mercury. This form of mercury is then absorbed through the stomach and intestines and distributed throughout the body. Inorganic mercury is not broken down and so enters the bloodstream directly.
Elemental mercury is highly toxic to humans and animals. It can cause death from exposure via inhalation of the vapor or ingestion of food contaminated with it. Elemental mercury is also readily absorbed by plants where it becomes bound up with soil particles. This makes it available for re-entry into the environment when plants are removed or burned. Elemental mercury is still present even after plants have been removed because some of it is re-emitted when soils dry out or when coal, oil, or natural gas wells are drilled into.
Inorganic mercury is found in two main forms: metallic mercury and mercury salts. Both forms are hazardous substances that should be treated as such. Metallic mercury is extremely reactive and will always try to find another metal to combine with. This usually results in its deposition in the brain or lungs where it can cause serious damage over time.
The mercury (I) reaction is a displacement process in which mercury is deposited and silver dissolves. The mercury (II)-silver reaction is a displacement with slightly irreproducible kinetics above 35 degrees Celsius. The presence of oxygen inhibits the reaction.
Silver is used in amalgam dental fillings, which are composed of a mixture of silver particles and mercury. When exposed to air or saliva, the filling material can release small amounts of mercury into the mouth. The amount released depends on how old the filling is and how much was used during treatment. Older fillings may release more mercury than new ones because older materials tend to wear down over time.
People who eat a lot of fish have higher levels of mercury in their blood. This is because fish contains high levels of mercury, while other foods do not. Individuals who eat a lot of fish but also take supplements containing methylmercury should not consume more than 2.5 mg of mercury per day. Any more than that could be harmful.
Mercury can also enter the body through skin contact with metal workers or via the environment. It can cause health problems if it enters the brain or the lungs. People who work with metals on a daily basis should learn about the dangers of mercury vapor inhalation. Those who work with metals occasionally should take special care to protect themselves from exposure.