OT: Mercury (Was: BBS software for the PDP 11)
mtapley at swri.edu
Tue May 23 11:29:49 CDT 2017
On May 22, 2017, at 9:38 AM, Paul Koning via cctalk <cctalk at classiccmp.org> wrote:
> ...I'm not sure if "mercury" batteries contain metallic mercury or mercury salts. Metallic mercury is actually pretty much harmless, even though bringing a thermometer into a US school can cause a major panic. Mercury salts are a different matter. Mercury vapor should also be avoided, at least in significant quantities and long term exposure, as my father found out as a university student in chemistry.
To emphasize what Paul says, Mercury considered only as an element has a *very* wide range of toxicity. It depends entirely on the compounds it is bound into. (Similar to, say, Carbon and Nitrogen….).
Karen Wetterhahn spilled a drop of a Mercury compound on her latex glove, and died of it 10 months later.
I don’t know what happened to the guy who is pictured sitting in (on) a pool of Mercury, but at least it’s clear that at the time, he considered elemental mercury not to be lethally dangerous. I remember seeing the photo in National Geographic, and the caption did say he was very careful to shake out his cuffs, etc after the photo was shot.
NatGeo itself also is now clearly aware there is some risk:
One problem is that it’s hard to ensure that *all* of the Mercury will stay in the non-toxic forms when handling it.
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