teaching, learning, knowing the facts about mercury Parents Header
Parents Image Mercury Information
History of Mercury
Health Effects of Mercury
Mercury Spill Information
Links Page
Health Effects Of mercury
Illinois Department of Public Health
Illinois Department of Public Health

Stop Scrolling Button Up Scrolling Arrow Button

Down Scrolling Arrow Button

At room temperature, mercury is a liquid metal that can evaporate to
form mercury vapor. Mercury vapor can be breathed in and cause
adverse health effects. Health problems caused by mercury depend on:

  • how much gets into your body,
  • how it gets into your body,
  • how long you have been exposed to it, and
  • how your body responds to the mercury.

Children are more likely to be affected by mercury exposure than adults because their nervous systems are still developing. Exposure to small amounts of mercury for a long time can cause damage to the brain,
kidney, lungs and the developing fetus. Brief contact with high levels of mercury can cause loss of appetite, tiredness, insomnia, and changes in behavior or personality. Depending on the length or amount of exposure, additional symptoms such as nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, eye irritation, weight loss, skin rashes, and muscle tremors may occur.

You can be exposed to mercury by breathing vapors, by direct skin contact or by eating food or drinking water contaminated with mercury. The main way people are exposed is by breathing vapors, which allows the mercury to be absorbed by the lungs. Mercury can enter the body through the skin, especially if it contacts a cut or wound. If you swallow mercury, very little is absorbed. Most of the mercury is eliminated through the digestive tract.

When exposure to mercury stops, most symptoms usually go away; however, some effects on the brain and nervous system may be permanent. Once mercury has entered the body, it can take months before it is eliminated, mainly through the urine and feces.