||Mercury is a naturally occurring element that is found in air, water and soil. It exists in several forms: elemental or metallic mercury, inorganic mercury compounds, and organic mercury compounds.
Mercury is an element in the earth's crust. Humans cannot create or destroy mercury. Pure mercury is a liquid metal, sometimes referred to as quicksilver that volatizes readily. It has traditionally been used to make products like thermometers, switches, and some light bulbs.
Mercury is found in many rocks including coal. When coal is burned, mercury is released into the environment. Coal-burning power plants are the largest human-caused source of mercury emissions to the air Burning hazardous wastes, producing chlorine, breaking mercury products, and spilling mercury, as well as the improper treatment and disposal of products or wastes containing mercury, can also release it into the environment.
Mercury and its compounds have been used in medicine, although they are much less common today than they once were, now that the toxic effects of mercury and its compounds are more widely understood.
Mercury in the form of one of its common ores, cinnabar, remains an important component of Chinese, Tibetan, and Ayurvedic medicine. As problems may arise when these medicines are exported to countries that prohibit the use of mercury in medicines, in recent times, less toxic substitutes have been devised.
Mercury exposure at high levels can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system of people of all ages.