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Hazardous Chemicals

             There are several types of pollutants which exist that affect our environment and our health. Among these pollutants is a metal called mercury. Mercury is a metal that has been used in products such as light bulbs, batteries, paint and thermometers. Although quite useful, is also poisonous and can contaminate the environment if it is not disposed of properly. Mercury has been well known as an environmental pollutant for several decades. As early as the 1950's it was established that emissions of mercury to the environment could have serious effects on human health. These early studies demonstrated that fish and other wildlife from various ecosystems commonly attain mercury levels of toxicological concern when directly affected by mercury from human related activities. Human health concerns arise when fish and wildlife from these ecosystems are consumed by humans.
             There are several types of mercury, elemental, organic, and inorganic. Elemental mercury is shiny and silver in its metallic form, and is an odorless liquid when used in thermometers. It is absorbed by the body through vapors. Organic mercury is mercury combined with carbon. This form of mercury is soluble in lipids and cross the blood brain barrier and placenta easily. Organic mercury is absorbed through the digestive tract and also through vapors. Inorganic mercury is mercury that is combined with non-carbon substances. Mercury salts are one kind of inorganic. The different types of mercury affect humans in various ways. Organic mercury is more dangerous than inorganic mercury. However, many inorganic mercury compounds can be converted to the organic form of Mercury. Inorganic mercury is usually a white powder or crystal. . This form of mercury has been used in medicines. Mercury is released from both natural sources such as volcanic eruptions and deep sea vents, and man-made sources as combustion of fossil fuels, incineration of mercury-containing products, and manufacturing processes.

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