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Mercury - beauriful evil


Mercury is the only metal that is liquid at standard conditions. It is commonly known as quicksilver due to its beautiful, silvery white colour and metallic sheen. However, appearances can be deceptive - mercury is a deadly poison.

is one of the metals which have been known to humans for centuries - it was already known in Ancient Egypt. Egyptians used mercury to leach silver and gold from river sands. They were not, however, aware of its toxicity. That is why it was used for centuries as an ingredient of various cosmetics and paints. People also ascribed therapeutic effects to mercury - it was used in oriental medicine as an ingredient of many drugs, and from there mercury-based drugs came to Europe.

our times, mercury is used, among others, as a thermometer, barometer, manometer and vacuum pump filling. Large amounts of mercury are used in a process called amalgamation to extract gold and silver (especially in deposits where ores are very fragmented; metals dissolve in mercury and form amalgams from which they are then reclaimed through mercury vaporization) as well as in alkali metal electrolysis and production of explosives.

Apart from the above applications, metallic mercury is also used:
- in amalgam production; amalgams are used, e.g. to manufacture dental fillings (nowadays less often than in   
 the past);
- in fluorescent lamp and mercury-vapour lamp production; it is worth remembering that these products       
 become hazardous waste to humans and the environment only after having been used;
- in window production. Many manufacturers use mercury as an ingredient of the window insulation material     
 (mercury content in a single window may reach as much as 150 mg; a lethal dose is 1 g).

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