OT: Mercury (Was: BBS software for the PDP 11)

William Sudbrink wh.sudbrink at verizon.net
Tue May 23 13:57:15 CDT 2017

I have a hard time getting my head around Dr. Wetterhahn's poisoning.  How
many molecules of the toxin could have possibly entered her body?
How many molecules does it take to kill or fatally disable a cell?  After it
does its damage, does the molecule become available again to do
more damage?  How many cells in her body were actually killed?  Do the
molecules somehow target the cells required to kill an individual?
If you killed just the "right" cells, how many cells does it take to kill a

-----Original Message-----
From: cctalk [mailto:cctalk-bounces at classiccmp.org] On Behalf Of Tapley,
Mark via cctalk
Sent: Tuesday, May 23, 2017 12:30 PM
To: General Discussion: On-Topic and Off-Topic Posts
Subject: Re: OT: Mercury (Was: BBS software for the PDP 11)

On May 22, 2017, at 9:38 AM, Paul Koning via cctalk <cctalk at classiccmp.org>

> ...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.
					- Mark

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