Mercury at room temperature is a silvery-white, odourless liquid with a high surface tension (forms convex globules on most surfaces) and a surprisingly high volatility.
Mercury vapour is non-flammable but very poisonous if inhaled. It can also enter the body by absorption through the skin but at quite a low rate.
Mercury has a profound effect on the central nervous system ranging from fatigue, irritability, tremors, impaired cognitive skills and sleep disturbances to vision and hearing impairment, renal impairment and psychotic reactions (e.g. hallucinations, delirium, suicidal tendencies). The seriousness of the effect depends on the concentration and duration of the exposure.
Although mercury was once commonly used in dental amalgams, thermometers and batteries, its use in these areas has largely been phased out. It still plays a major part in the processing of gold and silver ores and is continues to be used widely in mercury vapour lamps.
UV absorption spectrometry (0.1–1,999 µg/m3)
Atomic absorption Zeeman effect spectrometry (2–20,000 ng/m3) to (0.1–200 µg/m3)