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Things that contain Mercury



Mercury is impossible to avoid.  It is part of the natural environment.  Extra mercury finds its way into the environment via industrial uses.  The amount of atmospheric mercury has increased 3-fold since the beginning of the industrial revolution.  Medical remedies containing mercury have a long history.  Mercury is still found in many medications, including many injections and in gamma globulin, and some traditional medicines.  Many foods have mercury in them.  Products used inside and outside the home have mercury in them.


It isn't always easy to know what has mercury in it and what doesn't.  It is easy to see that the product mercurochrome has mercury in it.  It isn't so obvious, unless you have read up on it, that calomel; thimerosal, thiram and thram are mercury products.  Most people now know that silver dental amalgams are up to 55% mercury.


The medical and personal products most likely to have mercury in them are injections, gamma globulin, mercurochrome, laxatives, diuretics, spermicides, vaginal gels, purgatives, contact lens solutions, Preparation H and recycled toilet paper.  Mercury is used in traditional medicines and even some traditional (fringe) religious ceremonies and rituals.


Inorganic mercury salts (including calomel) are used for antibacterial, antiseptic, cathartic and diuretic purposes.  While mercury has been banned from teething powders, and in many countries, cosmetics, it can be found in these products in and from some countries.  The cosmetics that are most likely to have mercury in them are hair dyes, mascara, eye shadow and skin lightening creams.  It is improbable that any product marked "hypo-allergenic" would have mercury in it.


Mercury is also the gas found in fluorescent lights, so if you break one, open all the doors and windows and leave the house immediately.  If you break an old-style thermometer containing liquid mercury or spill mercurochrome, it can be difficult to clean up.  Open all the doors and windows.  Put rubber gloves and a mask on.  If it's on a smooth surface, soak it up with papers towels, wash and clean the area thoroughly several times, and dispose of the gloves, mask, paper and other cleaning products in well sealed bags.  If the spill is on carpet - you are going to have to buy new carpet. 


The thing about any type of liquid mercury (quicksilver from thermometers, mercurochrome), is that it rapidly turns into a vapour at room temperature.  As a vapour, it is much more easily absorbed into the human body.


High-risk foods include fish, especially the large predatory variety.  The more mercury there is in the water and the lake, sea or riverbed where the fish is found, the more mercury the fish will have in it.  The most mercury-affected fish are likely to be flounder, skate and other fish that dwell at the bottom of the sea, rivers and lakes.  The degree of mercury other fish have in them varies.  Tuna, shellfish and large salt-water fish are likely to have more rather than less mercury in them than some other fish.  What’s more, anything that eats something with mercury in it, will also have mercury in it.


Any fruit, grain or vegetable that is sprayed with mercury containing pesticides will have some mercury in them.  Seeds, such as corn and wheat, are often powdered with mercury containing substances as a fungicide.  Vegetables grown from such seeds are likely to contain some mercury.  The vegetables most likely to have mercury in them are lettuce, carrots and corn.  Apples are sometimes sprayed with mercury containing products.  Fish, poultry, eggs and beef and products that are made from these, are the animal products most likely to have mercury in them.


Any animal which grazes in an area where there is mercury in the soil, or any fruit, grain or vegetable grown in such soil will also have an increased mercury content.  Animals and foods exposed to air borne mercury vapour will also be affected.  The foods most likely to have mercury in them are fish, eggs, carrots and beef, but few foods would be devoid of mercury.  Mercury is simply too prevalent in the environment.


Naturally occurring mercury sources include the ore, cinnabar, and fossil fuels, such as coal and petroleum.  Environmental contamination from mining, smelting, industrial, and sewage processing all discharge into the air and/or water, and, believe it or not, mercury can even be part of the ash and pollutants from volcanic eruptions.


Other products that may contain mercury include fungicides, pesticides, weed killer, paint (particularly old paint), paint stripper, industrial waste, some batteries, cleaning products and jewellery made from the ore, cinnabar.


The thing about mercury is that you can't avoid it.  What you can do is minimise your exposure to it.  Don't have any more amalgam fillings.  Insist that your dentist provides you with a composite filling that doesn't contain mercury.  The most common source of mercury vapour exposure in humans is dental amalgams because they slowly release their mercury in vapour form.  Ask your doctor, chemist or naturopath if any medical product, prescribed or otherwise, contains mercury or any mercury containing substance.  Avoid as many sprays and chemicals as you can.  Wash all food products thoroughly and avoid fish altogether or at least, avoid the fish most likely to have mercury in them.  Don't have things in the home that contain mercury (such as fluorescent lights, mercurochrome and mercury thermometers) if possible.  Try to use household products that at least claim to be environmentally friendly - this will reduce the risk of them containing mercury or mercury products.  Use hypo-allergenic cosmetics and personal products.


MOST foods and household products DO NOT tell you if they have mercury in them.  Some products DO tell you that they don't - for example, buy batteries which state they don't contain added mercury, and contact lens solutions that state they are "thimerosal" free.

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